— Do you think autism is a disability or a difference? Or both? —
I think of Autism as both.
It is a difference, as our brains are wired differently then most people. How we go about things in life and perceive things around us, the natural way that we interact with our environment is very different from the way in which the average person does. This difference is also what makes it a disability. The world is not made for Autistics. We are disabled by the way that society is. If we had the proper accommodations in life, we would seem far less disabled and be able to cope better. A lot of us would also have a much better quality of life as well.
When I first told some of my friends I was Autistic, some of them didn’t believe me. They had only seen me in settings where I was in control and comfortable. They had never seen me have a shutdown, a meltdown, or go non-verbal. So I had to explain what I was like out of my carefully controlled environments. I am quite lucky in regards to that, I have tailored my day to day life to be sensory friendly for myself for the most part. I also set my own schedule. If someone saw me at home they wouldn’t have any clue I was Autistic, but once I am out in public that all changes. When outside of my home I tend to anxious stim a lot more, so now I bring stim toys with me for that purpose. I also sometimes bring my ear defenders if I know someplace will cause hearing sensory overload.
The social model of disability says that disability is caused by the way society is organized. It identifies systemic barriers, negative attitudes and exclusion by society (purposely or inadvertently) that mean society is the main contributory factor in disabling people. While physical, sensory, intellectual, or psychological variations may cause individual functional limitation or impairments, these do not have to lead to disability unless society fails to take account of, and include people regardless of their individual differences. – Identity-First Autistic
The Neurodiversity movement promotes the social model of disability. If society would adopt it, not only Autistics but everyone would be better off. If we help each other and accommodate each other then the world becomes a much friendlier place for disabled and non-disabled people alike. Accommodations do not mean we get more then others, they mean we get a level playing field. We will finally be able to operate in the world and be comfortable.