Why don’t we just stop diagnosing autism?
Now I don’t mean let’s stop acknowledging that Autistic people exist, so don’t blow up my inbox because you misunderstand me. I mean stop diagnosing us. Hear me out.
For decades homosexuality was listed as a disorder in the DSM. People were (and still are, in some areas) forced into conversion therapy in order to ‘fix’ what was ‘wrong’ with them. They were medicated, sedated, chemically castrated in many cases, sterilized, and institutionalized. Unimaginable things happened to the LGBTQIA+ Community, and it was systemic. Heck, there couldn’t even be an actual Community until relatively recently. People had to hide their identities out of fear.
But we don’t diagnose homosexuality as a disorder anymore. It’s not even in the DSM. A person self-identifies as LGBTQIA+ and other than the bigots of the world, society accepts that the person knows themselves well enough to do so. We’re not considered ‘disordered’ for being LGBTQIA+, except by the bigots and who cares what they think, anyway? We have legal protections (in places that aren’t run by bigots). Our schools, workplaces, and public spaces are being made more inclusive. There’s still a long way to go, but there’s progress being made as far as our basic rights as humans being acknowledged and for the most part, accepted. Our LGBTQIA+ voices are being included in important discussions.
For decades now, autism has been listed as a disorder in the DSM. People are forced into ABA therapy in order to ‘fix’ what is ‘wrong’ with them. They are medicated, sedated, chemically castrated and/or sterilized in some cases, and institutionalized. Unimaginable things are happening to the Autistic Community, and it is systemic. Heck, there couldn’t even be an #ActuallyAutistic Community until relatively recently, because the ‘Autism Parent’ Community grabbed the mic and ran with it and we’re only just now wrestling it out of their hands to amplify our own voices.
So why can’t we take autism out of the DSM? Why can’t we trust people to know themselves well enough to self identify? Why can’t society accept that we’re not disordered and we don’t need to be fixed? We’re just a little different. Why do we have to be othered by a humiliating diagnostic process before people are willing to make spaces inclusive for us?
You need a diagnosis to get accommodations put in place. WHY? Why should a student or employee have to have a diagnosis (which is often inaccessible for several reasons) before they’re ‘allowed’ accommodations? If society insists on putting fluorescent lighting everywhere, then they need to stop considering wearing sunglasses inside as ‘rude.’ Same with headphones or a hat/hood. These things are simple, reasonable accommodations for sensory needs that a person shouldn’t have to jump through metaphorical hoops to utilize.
You need a diagnosis so insurance will cover things. That’s a systemic problem with the insurance industry, how funding is allocated, and essentially capitalism in general, because this stuff shouldn’t be so expensive in the first place. You should be asking yourself why private companies are allowed to profit off of people’s disabilities in the first place while the vast majority of disabled individuals are living in poverty. ABA therapy is a multi-billion dollar industry. Yes, BILLION. Health insurance, too.
You need a diagnosis for social security/ disability. Don’t even get me started on that whole system. It’s a degrading and disheartening process to apply for payments and many people are denied due to bias. Universal basic income would solve that for everyone.
There are those who think everybody should have to get a diagnosis before we’re considered legitimately Autistic because they had to fight so hard for their own (or their child’s) and it’s not fair to ‘actual’ diagnosed Autistics if people self identify. Well they’re gatekeeping and it’s gross. They might’ve had to fight for that diagnosis but that should also make them realize how difficult it can be to get one in the first place. The medical community is inherently biased, racist, sexist, classist, ageist, ableist, and bigoted in general, and the current diagnostic criteria for autism is no exception. They should acknowledge their privilege instead of wielding it as a weapon against their fellow Autistics. MOST of the Autistic Community already considers self-identification as valid. Everyone else needs to catch up.
We’re being pathologized. Our harmless, inherent traits are being listed as disordered and wrong. Our very way of being has been classified as ‘abnormal’. Our hobbies are at best considered ‘special interests,’ at worst they’re called ‘obsessions’. Our play as children is ‘inappropriate’ even though we’re usually just doing our own thing, not hurting anyone. Lining toys up is a ‘red flag,’ a ‘warning sign,’ when it harms nobody.
You don’t have to get diagnosed as neurotypical. People just ARE.
There’s no expensive multi-step process that lists out every single developmental ‘deficit’ an allistic (non-Autistic) child has. There’s no meeting that goes, “I’m really sorry to tell you this Mr. and Mrs. Smith, but little Timmy has allism. He won’t notice small details and he might never stop having short, meaningless conversations with people about insignificant things. You might never have to cut the tags out of his clothes. He may never flap his hands in glee or frustration. But it’ll be ok. YOU’LL be ok too, Mr. and Mrs. Smith. There are organizations and support groups to help. A lot of marriages end in divorce after a child is diagnosed with allism, but there’s still hope if you work hard and get early interventions. With enough therapies, little Timmy might even go to college and get married! He could live a normal life if we get started right away!”
Why are we still doing this to people?