Autistics Speaking Day is so significant because it’s an encouraging way for people with autism to let their voices be heard. This one day is enough to increase autism awareness widely, especially through the use of popular social networks and internet media in today’s society (i.e. twitter, facebook, youtube, etc.). I think one of the most important messages to relay on this day is that an autistic person often does not fit autism stereotypes and that our preconceived assumptions are what create these stereotypes in the first place. I was shocked when I read in “Cat in a Dog’s World” about the way Simon Baron-Cohen developed the new diagnostic criteria for adult Asperger’s. The blogger is right in saying that Baron-Cohen bases much of these criteria on his own assumptions, such as a person with Asperger’s having a “lack of interest in fiction appropriate to [one’s] developmental level” and preferring to go to a museum instead of a movie. Not only is this extremely vague, but since when did a hobby become a diagnostic criterion? These criteria written by Baron-Cohen, a trusted psychologist known for his autism research, is solid proof that there is a flaw with the way in which people view those on the autism spectrum.
On the whole, neurotypical members of society (including those like Baron-Cohen who regularly work with autism) have no idea what it is like to be autistic. Further, the individuality of people with autism makes it nearly impossible to empathize with someone who has it, or to make assumptions and base your understanding of them off of past experiences with other autistic persons. That being said, it’s not necessarily a neurotypical person’s fault for assuming stereotypes when they meet an autistic individual, just because they likely do not know anything else about autism. That’s where Autistic Speaking Day comes in. I’d encourage any person with autism to speak up and let the rest of the world know what it really means to be autistic. Use this day to work towards changing the notions and stereotypes that come to mind when someone thinks of the word “autism”, and prevent the future existence of ridiculous diagnostic criteria like those created by Baron-Cohen.