Greta Thunberg started her school strike all by herself. Her parents didn’t support her decision at first. Her father suggested that she should find some other way.
Nevertheless, she persisted.
Now we have opponents of climate action getting their knickers in a twist and faking concern for Greta as a vulnerable ‘child with autism’ who is being ‘used by the libs’. They claim that her wealthy parents set her up to all this.
Nevertheless, she persists, even adding that under the right conditions, autism is a superpower. (Paradoxically, the climate crisis seems to have created those right conditions for her.)
A week ago, while all this was happening, I unexpectedly received a piece of text via WhatsApp. At that time, I was neck-deep in online battles and private conversations with journalists regarding their promotion of a human rights violation masquerading as therapy. The ‘therapy’ is called ABA, and South Africa’s most expensive ABA provider is running a nationwide campaign on radio, TV and other media to grow her business, co-opting packs of parents and therapists to silence autistic adults who speak out against ABA online.
Then came this text, out of the blue, via WhatsApp. It was the handwritten transcript of an unfinished blog by a non-speaking autistic child. The mother, the therapist and I looked at this and thought: the timing of this thing is going to make it look like he was somehow set up to write this—or worse, that someone else wrote it and said these were his words.
We speculated about the coincidence of his chosen subject matter. Did he know there was this big debate about ABA in South Africa right now? How would he know?
We pondered what to do.
We considered the backlash of releasing this, the possibility that he would be lambasted by those he was effectively accusing; that we would be lambasted for ‘using’ him; that further attempts would be made to silence other non-speaking autistic children in our country if his words were put out to the world.
Because we know by now from experience that for people who hate autism, that silencing autistic adults is not enough; they will go for the children too, pretending that their words are not their own, claiming that they are being set up and used.
But we all knew what we had committed to do, so we had to do it: We had committed ourselves to sharing the words of non-speaking autistic people, not editing them, not filtering them, not censoring them.
As for the kid: he knows that what he wrote is ‘controversial’, and in the words of his therapist, “He really doesn’t care.”
The kid finished his blog post today and I got to see the final typed pre-published version. It should be going up this weekend or early next week.
It’s sunset on Friday, and I’m leaving this post in draft until he posts his. Then I’ll link to it, so that you can read it for yourself.
If you really care about autistic people, hopefully you’ll also listen to the ones who speak out in spite of the controversy that it may create; or rather, listen because those controversies are necessary to stop the abuse of the planet and the vulnerable children who live on it.
Here’s the post published by Akha Khumalo on Sunday 29 September 2019.