The Autism Directory in Australia changing the way we perceive “Normal”
One of my good friends compared her son’s severe acne to my child’s autism. This infuriated me; how on earth could you compare autism to acne? But that is not what she meant. She was referring to her son’s anxiety and depression. She was referring to the torment and bullying he was experiencing around his pitted acne. It was an eye-opener for me. I advocate fiercely for my son. I even started a free online national autism directory to help other kids and parents who were like our family. But, recognising that anxiety and depression did not discriminate or are even isolated to kids with disabilities was a bit of an” AHA” moment.
Absorbed in our battle of inclusion and acceptance, I began to ponder. Who decides what is normal, right, or wrong? How, as a society, did we end up being so judgemental? Is there an unwritten rule on social hierarchy?
How did we get here?
At some point in time, as a society, we decided that any perception of damage physically or mentally was not normal. As a collective, society agreed that these individuals should be lower in the social hierarchy.
A ramp will be provided if you cannot use your legs and require a wheelchair. Great, but why isn’t the ramp already there? Why do most older buildings not have accessible toilets, and why do people still stare at anyone who does not look or act like the socially accepted norm?
Then in our family’s case, why am I still fighting for essential support? Why did I have to wait to see if my child’s school could accommodate his needs? Why am I still getting over 20 emails a day from parents in desperation trying to find support for their autistic children? Why are kids like mine and my friends still being tormented for being socially unacceptable? Who made these rules around social hierarchy?
The turning point
At 12 years old, my autistic son had expressed his desire to end his own life. He had a plan. He had told me he didn’t fit in, and it was just too much effort. It was one of the worst moments in my life. I say one because I had already endured the death of one child. It was not through suicide. However, I was not going to do that ever again, regardless of the reason. No bloody way was this happening to us, again!
My son had gotten to this point because he felt so different. He was being targeted not only by the bullies but by adults who regarded him as an inconvenience. He was not socially agreeable. Therefore, he was low on the social hierarchy.
“One of these things is not like the other” Yep, that was my son. He was not considered normal in the eyes of this called social scale.
Who decides what is acceptable?
I mean, who really decides this stuff anyway? Having to justify and fight for every little accommodation. I had to prove my son was worthy enough of the assistance. Why weren’t some supports already available? Surely my autistic son was not the first to have needed additional help? I can also 100% guarantee he will not be the last autistic student at the school.
It is the same for my friend’s son. He was visually unacceptable. Placing him low in the social hierarchy along with my son. Where do our kids learn that there is a standard that one must adhere to be worthy of respect? We are all thinking it, the media. But I think it starts in homes first and foremost. It should be a priority in all households. We need to change what we perceive as normal.
In a frightening statistic, suicide is the leading cause of death among Australians aged 15–24. In 2020, 381 young people took their own lives. Also an autistic individual have a lifespan 20 – 35 years shorter that that of the average person. Our kids didn’t wake up one day and make rash decisions. Driven through mental illness, they feel tormented, different, and less worthy than everyone else.
I know I can’t change this myself, but what I can do is chip away slowly and challenge the social hierarchy. We can challenge what we perceive as normal. We all need to take a role in this. No child should feel different, be excluded, or be bullied. There was not a single person who created these rules, so no single person could redefine them.
Autism directory Australia
I am tackling this in my way. Living on the Spectrum is the free national autism directory in Australia and beyond. We are also a neurodiversity hub, sharing news, research and stories. I founded this to save my son’s life. To save other kids like my son. I want to redefine autism and neurodiversity, What we perceive as socially acceptable. If I can support others, even just a little, I know I can make a huge difference in protecting our kids and redefining this so-called “normal.” Our free resource assists in supporting kids, parents, and anyone who is neurodivergent. We share support and stories; we understand the struggles and the unspoken social hierarchy that is killing and damaging our kids.
While it is a slow road, I know we are gaining momentum slowly and steadily. I am doing this for all kids who feel less than. I am here to tell you that no one is better than you or us.
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