Autism, and issues around autism often prove to be divisive. Whether it`s the debate over person first language, or even the argument over a cure for autism, there are a lot of different viewpoints floating around. Rarely is there one overall view that everyone can agree on. There are views held by the majority, and views that are only held by a scant few, but how tolerant should the autism community be of the views of others? Do all views have the same right to be heard and respected, or are there some that should just be ignored?
There is of course a need for tolerance, and respect amongst everyone – especially in a community that campaigns for respect from others. It could be said that it would be hypocritical to dismiss the feelings and thoughts of others just because they do not fit with the views of the majority. Some might voice views that are challenging, and even controversial, but that should not mean they are dismissed out of hand.
But is there a limit to how far this should go? This does not just apply to autism although this is the topic being discussed in this article. It is the same for race, sex and everything else – it could be said that some views are just wrong. If someone makes a post online that is blatantly racist and offensive, should that be given the same level of respect as a non-racist comment? Who decides if something is racist? Well it`s the same for autism issues. It is well known that most people with autism hate hearing it called a disease, so if someone were to make the case that Autism is a disease should this be tolerated as they are entitled to their opinions? Or should people say that this comment has crossed the line – that it`s no longer just someone voicing a view, but someone saying something they know full-well will hurt, and offend a whole group of people?
So where is the line to be drawn? At what point do people say “Ok that’s not an argument anymore, that’s just hurtful”? Or does it not even have to be hurtful? Can people say “That argument is being made by someone with no clue what they are talking about”? But this might become hard; if someone who has never studied physics starts a debate with a physics teacher it might seem only fair for that teacher not to have to respect the opinion of someone who clearly did not know what they were talking about. But with autism do you have to study it to understand it? It would not seem so, as people with autism have more of an understanding of autism than anyone. So are autistics themselves the ones who can determine whether someone`s views deserve to be tolerated?
Well here is the hard part – this article can’t give the answers. Disregarding the views of people who don’t think in a set way seems wrong. But so does giving air time to people who clearly lack knowledge of what they are talking about. But maybe the point is not to try to stop people from talking, but to not let what they say impact. Just because someone thinks one thing, this does not have to hurt and affect those who don’t think that way. Views and opinions are important, but it’s also important to know that they are just that – views. Facts are facts, and they will remain true whatever anyone else says. Going back to the point about someone saying autism is a disease – they can say this all they like, but however much they voice this view it will not change the facts.