These days, we hear the phrase “Self-advocacy” thrown a lot. But what, exactly, is self advocacy?
The dictionary defines an advocate as “a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, cause, etc.”
It goes on to define advocacy as “the act of pleading for, supporting, or recommending; active espousal:”
So… at the root of it all, an advocate will practice advocacy… I know that is a given, but it really is necessary to explain. And advocate is one who takes up a concept and crusades for it. They plead the case, make noise and help people become aware of the concept.
I know you’ve heard about advocacy groups… Some well known ones are the ASPCA, PETA, The ACLU, The Audubon Society… And finally… you cannot have a discussion about advocacy and Autism without mentioning Autism Speaks… All of these groups are advocates for their causes… and they do a damn good job at it. (The previous statement is, in no way, an endorsement of Autism Speaks)
I am a firm believer in advocacy… Some people need someone to step up and speak for them… However, I believe that a successful advocate needs to have a frame of reference… be able to understand the person that they are speaking for… And that, I honestly believe, is not really possible with Autistic Spectrum Disorders.
|This is a simplification of the physics concept of frame of reference.
It kinda fits…
I have spent the last year writing this series -“Care and Feeding of Your Aspie” for just that reason… To help Neurotypicals develop at lease a modicum of understanding of what it means to be an Autistic Spectrum Individual. We spend our lives looking through the Warped Lens of Our Own Perceptions. We experience the world through a miswired brain… and we don’t have the frame of reference to even express the differences… Honestly… for every issue in the Care and Feeding series, there are hours of research… And then are hours of discussion with my pet Neurotypicals to hammer out examples and reference points…
To give you and idea of what I am talking about, I will refer you to several previous entries. (Sorry about being self referential, but I believe these entries help put things in perspective)
- Sensory Issues
- Aspies, Pain and Perception
- Food Issues
- Cognitive Dissonance, Decision Making and Communication
At it’s core… the entire series is about autistic perceptions, but this specific entries personify these issues more so than others…
We have established that Autistic perceptions and cognitive processes are different than Neurotypicals; and that an advocate needs to truly understand that which they are speaking for; and without extensive explanation and education, it is almost impossible for an NT to comprehend the Autistic condition… SO… Ask yourself… are they qualified to be your advocate?
The answer, in most cases, is (or should be) a resounding NO.
So… You are an Autistic Spectrum Individual… you need an advocate, but no one else has the frame of reference to successfully speak for you… Who should it be?
And that, right there, is the point of self-advocacy… No one else can truly speak for you… Autistic perceptions pretty much guarantee that.
Now, I know the next question… “How do I act a self-advocate?”
Believe it or not… That is simple…
Speak for yourself… Educate those around you. Blog about it… When you hear people say ignorant things about Autistic Spectrum Disorders, see it as an education opportunity. Tell everyone… declare proudly, “I am Autistic and proud of it.”
It’s a difficult step to take… Speaking from experience… Telling a health care professional (that was not my Mental Health care professional) that I was a “Special Needs Adult” was one of the hardest steps I have ever taken… But once I got past that, it became easier.
Take that first step… and speak for yourself…
Oh… on a personal note… this is not encouragement to be an ass… as with all things, I always espouse a personal ethos of respectful behavior… even to those you don’t agree with… ESPECIALLY with those people.
Images in this issue SHAMELESSLY stolen from the following sources: