No, I Don’t Laugh When You Make That Joke

I’m about to get really personal and really long, so if that’s going to make you uncomfortable or you aren’t interested in that, that’s cool, and I’d advise just navigating somewhere else for this one.

If you’re still with me, it’s either because you’re genuinely interested or because that sentence worked like a DO NOT PUSH THIS BIG RED BUTTON sign. I’m cool with that too.

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Now see, that’s quality humor right there.

LUL WELL MEMED

In the environment in which I play games, most notably World of Warcraft (obviously), but it extends to most games I play and most groups of people I play with, shit talking is the norm. Jokes are the norm. And I’m 100% okay with that. I have no problem taking it or dishing it out (yeeeeeeah see, the joke is RIGHT THERE, you’re welcome).

And we can get pretty crass pretty quickly. Not that I would ever…yeah okay, guilty as charged, whatever. 😉 I’ve heard things that would make my parents blush, and my dad’s former military so I know he and I could go toe-to-toe with stories (not that I ever would. Awkwaaaaaaaarrrrd).

But when you use the word “retarded” or when you make jokes about autism or anyone with a disability, really; I don’t laugh. And I’m never ever going to. 

Yeah, Okay, It’s Personal

15697952_10101280715333428_8192020663234473160_nTruthfully, I’ve never been comfortable with this, as far back as I can remember. But I’ll make no pretense of the fact that my son is autistic and that my daughter is also likely on the spectrum and that it weighs heavily on how I feel about the subject.

The thing is, to you it’s a joke. Someone does something weird or stupid and you ask, “Are you autistic?” Every time you say it, it stings. Every time you say it, I wince.

Because when I hear the word “autistic” and I look at my son , I see almost 9 years of love and struggle and understanding and amazement and wonder and joy. 

I remember the night I realized that the way he was acting had a reason. I remember worry and terror struck into me by certain organizations that use fear-mongering to capitalize off of parents and families of autistics.

I remember the first time he spoke a word in context (it was “go” and I cried for 10 minutes). The first time he responded to his name. I remember when I thought he’d never be able to blow a bubble or tell me he loved me.

And then I remember the moments he did those things. And the people who helped me see and remember that “autism” isn’t a scary word. It’s just a thing that some people have. It makes my son different, sure; but it doesn’t mean he’s stupid. It doesn’t mean he has to be limited in what he wants to achieve. It’s going to be a different path for him. And so far, the kid he’s becoming is amazing.

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This year is the first year he’s been in a standard classroom for some of his subjects, and he’s excelling. He’s smart, compassionate, sweet, and he’s developing a pretty hilarious sense of humor. I love all of him, even (and maybe sometimes especially) the “autistic” parts. You don’t know what joy is until you see him flapping his hands because he just can’t hold the happiness back.

Some things are hard. It’s difficult to see him frustrated or upset because he can’t communicate in the way he wants to. I know he does things sometimes and doesn’t know why he can’t control it, and I know that must be really frustrating for him. I can’t always fix those things, I can only be there to help him cope with it and find ways around it.

But that’s okay, cause he’s incredible and strong, and my heart still melts every night when he says, “I love you, Mom.” When I go afk in the raid with a “brb babies,” it’s because that’s a moment I refuse to miss, no matter what else is going on.

So yes. It’s very, very personal.

But What’s Bad About It? I’m Not Insulting Your Son

Except you are. And every other autistic. When you make “autistic” synonymous with “stupid” or “weird,” you’re creating a new label while simultaneously removing the importance of the actual meaning of the word.

“You just ran into that patch of fire on the ground, are you autistic?” Change the word “autistic” to “stupid” and the meaning of this sentence doesn’t change.

“Amber’s son is autistic.” Change it to “stupid” in that sentence. You’ve just insulted an 8-year-old kid. You’ve also minimized the fact that autism is a very real part of our life and a very pivotal part of who he is.

You are devaluingthe word. And that makes it a lot harder for our voices to be heard when we’re asking for things like acceptance and asking for people to remember to always presume competence.

 

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April is Autism Awareness Acceptance Month. Learn more about it here.

 

So Why Haven’t You Said Anything Before?

tenorOkay, let’s be real here for a minute, me and you. Let’s put ourselves in one of those situations. Let’s be halfway through a raid when you say “are you autistic?” and it starts a string of jokes about autism. Let’s jump right in to the times you’ve actually insulted me as a mother or my son as an autistic (cause it’s happened).

What would happen if I said something? What would happen if I told you in that moment that you were being offensive? That I didn’t think that was funny? What would reallyhappen?

Things would get weird, at best. Everyone would feel a little awkward. Or, at worst, you’d start to make fun of me for being sensitive. The new joke would be that I can’t take a joke. Maybe it wouldn’t be a joke, maybe it’d just be whispers between people about “Oh, don’t make an autism joke in front of Amber, she’s gonna get all mom about it.”

Not only would it not make a difference in how you think or behave, it would make the situation worse for me. So I sit and I listen and I wince and I’m sad that people I otherwise really, really like have this ugly thing that I have to put up with. 

This morning, when I dropped my son off at school, we did our routine. He gave me a hug, a kiss, and one forehead kiss. He said “Goodbye, Mom,” like he always does. He walked down the hall by himself and into his classroom. And every day I couldn’t be prouder.

When you say autistic, I see my son’s face, and it’s not stupid or weird. It’s wonderful.

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7 Comments

Filed under Blogstuff, personal

7 responses to “No, I Don’t Laugh When You Make That Joke

  1. Marathal

    A long time friend of my wife’s son is autistic. And if they come over to swim in the pool, or just stop by to say hello on their way home from visiting his parents, we treat him no differently. To us, he is just Tommy. He loves to swim, he likes movies, he is smart and funny.

    I do know exactly the types of comments you talk about. When I joined the guild I run, the GM, and a few other people all had children with Autism. That type of talk was frowned upon. I have them all on Facebook, and have watched their children grow over 8 years. All of them do well in school, play sports, are band geeks just like their mom. Because they are their sons. Autism is a label. Not who they are.

    • battlechicken

      I feel like it’s one of those things that people understand a lot better when it becomes personal, you know? I get that some of it is experience-related, but maybe my experiences–and the ones you’ve had with your friends, for instance–can help open some eyes. Thanks, love. ❤

  2. Kanter

    My daughter is autistic, 14, in a mainstream school but an autism class because she is mostly non-verbal. I have been fortunate that I haven’t run into those comments recently but I have struggled with being a parent of a special needs child and a ‘gamer.’ I started blogging in order to figure out where the balance is between being a parent, particularly one with extra responsibilities, and being a gamer and I enjoy reading other gaming blogs partially to see how other adults keep their own balance.

    Thank you for this post. It is important that people hear about autism outside of the ‘certain organizations’. I know it isn’t the focus of your blog (just like it isn’t in mine, when I post infrequently), but it is a significant part of our lives and our children with autism our important members of society who should be appreciated, not ridiculed.

    • battlechicken

      I think that’s what’s important as a parent especially, that gaming and our families both exist as important parts of our lives, and it’s okay for those two things to coexist simultaneously.

      I’ve struggled with the balance in the past, but sometimes the blogging and perspective, especially talking to other people and other parents, really does help. ❤

  3. Dragon

    I have been reading your blog for a long while now and I really felt compelled to comment on this post as I have to respectfully disagree with you.

    You should call it out, you should make them feel awkward about it, you should make it something they don’t joke about in front of you..

    The reason I say that is because I do not – under any circumstances tolerate rape jokes. It was an enforced rule in every guild I ran. I gave you one warning – after that you were removed from the guild. I place people on ignore lists if they make jokes and i even defriend family members on social media for it.

    People need to be put in situations where they realise they are making you unhappy/uncomfortable/annnoyed etc – why are their feelings more valid than your own which are directly affected by the questionable content. Why do you deserve to be unhappy but they can be insulting?

    Even if they just don’t make jokes around you – at least it will make your gaming time better. That is just imho though 😀

    xoxoxo sorry people are jerks.
    Dragonray

  4. Eric

    I gotta be honest. I had never heard of anyone using the word “autistic” as an insult like that. I must be out of the loop.

    Good on you for shedding light on this. I remember as early as age 5, other kids my age were already saying “retard”. And hearing “socially retarded” later on was really hurtful at times.

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