Microaggressions in Autistim Spaces

This began as an admin post in a closed group and I was asked to make a public version. Edits may happen, to add feedback and additional microaggression phrases relevant to the topic.

So let’s talk (which means NTs should take seats and listen while Autistics discuss this, so you can see our perspectives without interjecting your own. Here to learn, yes?) about microaggressions. What is a microaggression?


mi·cro·ag·gres·sion

/ˌmīkrōəˈɡreSHən/

noun

a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority.

indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group.

Definition of microaggression.

Why is this important? Dr. Edwin Barnhart is an anthropology professor who said, “Words matter. How we choose to discuss things not only sets the tone, but it can either grant or take away respect.” He was discussing the marginalization and minimization of ancient cultures of the Americas at the time, but his statement applies to many situations. What he’s saying is how the experts discuss something and the words that are used when they’re educating sets the entire narrative for how the subject is viewed by society.

Quote from Dr Edwin Barnhart, PhD

When we as Autistics correct what you think are minor language slip ups we are telling you that these small words are important to us because how you choose to discuss your child and their neurology and their fellow Autistics is how you’re teaching others to discuss your child and their neurology and other Autistics. Words like “concerns”, “red flags”, “warning signs”, etc are harmful. You need to know this. Your child hears these things at appointments, at school, sometimes even at home (whether or not it’s overheard through closed doors as quiet sobs and whispered conversations).

These words and phrases and ideas are hurtful to see as Autistic adults as well. We can flash in an instant to memories of our own childhoods as vivid as if they were yesterday, it makes it difficult to do what we do here. We are here to educate you to help support your child more effectively, not to give the typical commiseration found in typical autism groups. (And the NT parents here really need to stop trying to make that happen, you came here for something different, right? Stop with the patting each other on the back for “dealing with” your Autistic children right in front of us, that’s not what allies do.)

We as the Autistic Community are trying to change the narrative around autism. We are tired of being discussed as a tragedy, as an epidemic to be eradicated. We need this shift to happen. So when an Autistic advocate (or two, three, four of us) tell you to make a minor language shift, maybe listen to us and learn from us rather than digging deeper and arguing about how you didn’t intend to offend anyone while we’re literally telling you what minor changes can prevent that from happening. We can get to what you think is important too, and we’ll get there a heck of a lot faster if you stop dismissing us when we advocate on something “minor” like the words people use to talk about us.

Your child is Autistic, that means they’re automatically a member of the Autistic Community. When you hear your child is diagnosed, you have options as to how you choose to react as a parent. You can learn from people who share neurological traits with your child in the same way you would want people to learn from your child when they’re grown, or you can go with the whole “autism sucks” tragedy narrative that dehumanizes and degrades Autistic neurology and aims to “solve” it like a problem or a puzzle.

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