For those who say that young neurodivergent children like my son, who is deeply autistic and nonspeaking, are 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 non-verbally. If my being an autistic parent and saying my son is quite neurodivergent, but I must presume he is competent to 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 circumstance when racist attempts to stop the desegregation of schools 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 self-advocate 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 ones. 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"