For those who say that young neurodivergent children like my son, who is deeply autistic and nonspeaking, is incapable of self advocacy and self determination, I quote Kassiane Sibley, who says “ advocacy begins with No!” “No!” does not require oral language. It can be stated in action and communicated nonverbally. If my being an autism parent and saying that my son is quite neurodivergent but I must presume he is competent seem incongruous, I can say that it is not.
I hold these views naturally. I am labeled as a member of five minority groups. My little brother, my older sister, and I were the first three Black students to integrate an all white elementary school in Illinois. We suffered hardship and maltreatment at a time and circumstane when racist attempts to stop the desegregation of schools still continued. But we stood our ground. To stand your ground as a child is hard. It is a lonely business. But it makes you a stronger person. I want my son to stand his ground; therefore he must see his mother standing up for him, standing by him, and by these actions I must make it clear I respect him. I want him to instinctively self-advocate before all else. I want him to know and remember children who had to be self advocating, and rose to the challenge. Children like Ruby Bridges.
|U.S. Marshals escort Ruby Bridges from school photo credit|
I envision the future of autism parent advocacy as the continuing process of acceptance of our own children as they are, preparing them to be self-advocates who can be as strong as Ruby Bridges was and continues to be. I hope to see parents leaving the realm of fear-based reactive advocacy, and joining neurodivergent advocates to produce inclusive, proactive. collaborative change that truly benefits autistic people throughout their lifespan. I see the brave autistic civil rights activists of today leading the way for our generation of children’s voices to be heard, and I am relieved that someone like my son echoes his voice. I am proud to stand with him in this fight, and know what my role is in it.
"Nothing about my son without my son"