Guest article: Is autism a disability?

This blog post was written by Janine on Autism Awareness Day, the 2nd of April. Therefor it’s already a bit older, but I like the text so much, that I still wanted to share it with you. Originally, the text was written in German.

Autism Awareness Day
I’ve read about a campaign, that wants autistic people to tell about their strengths, but I think: “How should that contribute to creating a society, where autistic people can feel well, because there’s at least some consideration by other people?” Everyone would only see the strengths. I’m already called arrogant (just like a lot of other autistic people). Now we’re standing there and talk about how awesome we are…NO! Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, that’s where we are all the same. The difference lies just in the kind and the level of the strengths and weaknesses, no matter if autistic or neurotypical.

Autism as a superpower?
Today, I’d rather talk about two experiences. I was told by someone, that he has read, that autism was a disability and he didn’t know why. I can understand that, because there’s a lot of people who talk about a superpower, when mentioning autism. The media also does its part by only portraying extreme stories like in the movie Rain Man.

Or rather autism as a disability?
I can say for myself: Autism is definitely a disability. It stops me from enjoying my life, because every sound is too loud. My husband started to buy kitchen aids depending on how loud they are. For Christmas I got noise cancelling headphones. (THANKS!!! They are awesome.) Only with those I was able to go bowling with family and friends. Grocery shopping is painful, it’s too loud and bright, it overwhelms me, I get angry and can’t concentrate anymore.

Light sensitivity
I nearly can’t go for walks, when the sun is out, it’s too bright and it hurts my head and my eyes so much, that I just want to go home really fast. Prescription sunglasses are expensive and apparently count as a luxury item. The health insurance doesn’t pay for that.
Therefore, autism is also a financial disability for us, because I need stuff (to do activities with my family), that other people don’t need.

It also disables me, that I can’t understand irony and sarcasm. I can’t recognize language melodies. Communication is only relaxed with people, who know how they need to talk, so that I can relax during the conversation.

I’ve been married for nearly 12 years and I can’t interpret my husband’s voice or facial expressions. Again and again, I have to ask, how it is meant. That’s frustrating. How could I say, that that’s not a disability for me? How could I say I’m not disabled, when I can’t learn something, that seems so easy and natural for others. I can try to learn it so often and for such a long time and with such an effort.

Autistic – people without feelings?
The second experience: I said that I was autistic and asked if the other person knew something about it. The answer: That’s those kinds of people, who don’t have feelings, right?

To assume that actually seems cold. I would never assume that another person couldn’t have any feelings. Of course, I have feelings. Many more and more intense than I would be able to describe. In my life there are no things, that don’t matter. When I’m happy, I’m like a small child. I walk through the forest and smell the sweet flowers, while I stop and stay in the moment. Because of pure joy I have to run in the next moment. I have to express my excitement. I would love to scream. But I’m afraid, what others and my family would think of me. I only dare to be myself, when I’m at home. And not even always there.

Written by Janine Kaden, translated by Nici –

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