As a family of vegetarians, we’re always on the lookout for veg-friendly places to eat when we go on the road. We recently ended up at a gluten-free establishment in the Midwest. Pretty good food! But I won’t mention the name because I did a bit of stealth activism there and I don’t want to make any assumptions about the owner or staff or clientele…
You could get your own water and bus your dishes etc. toward the back of the restaurant, as well as use the bathroom. And there was also a help-yourself bookshelf full of stuff to read back there. I am always down for a good read, so I took a look.
Well, the books consisted almost entirely of books about autism. But not just any books.
“Cure Autism With This,” “Cure Autism With That,” “Get Rid of Autism With The ___ Diet”—you get the idea.
I felt ambushed—and horrified. I’ve spent all my parenting years trying to get my kids to love themselves as they are. Sure, I’ve read my share of books about the various nuances of our lives, such as adoption, autism, racism, neurodiversity, learning differences, behavioral differences, trauma, etc.
And hey, yay healing! We all have stuff to heal.
Heal away! If, in fact, it’s something that needs to be and can be healed.
But I’ve always operated in a context of acceptance and diverse perspectives. This felt like a full-on, unilateral assault on being autistic—however well-meaning.
I quietly went back to my table, took out my mini travel notebook and began to write. Then I went back to those shelves and placed a note in each book: “Autism is a neurology not a disease.”
And on the long drive home from our trip, I thought about the ways our culture pathologizes so many things that might better be treated as normal and healthy aspects of the human condition.
Being shy? A serious condition. Same-sex love and desire: a psychological disease? Until shockingly recently, the majority of people, including some scientists and doctors, thought so. Cellulite: abnormal but “curable” (hah!). Are you little bit weird? That’s weird. Maybe kind of…spectrum-y? Better treat it.
We even treat getting older like a disease. In fact, I’m embarrassed to admit (even to myself) how much of my internal dialog consists of self-criticism over my age spots or crepey skin. How ashamed I feel on a very gut level about aging, despite being a feminist and never, ever ageist with others.
Um…HUH? What’s the alternative?
When will we wake up to the full range of beauty?
Thanks and love,
Full Spectrum Mama
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