I was watching Harry Potter and the philosopher stone again (to prepare for Crimes of Grindelwald, which I will be watching next week), and a phrase by Albus Dumbledore struck a chord. The title of this piece.
You, my dear readers, already know that I got my diagnose at a rather late age (29) and that I distinctly remember being treated as a neurotypical with some character flaws in comparison to now being seen as autistic.
We, sorry to say, live in a society that is ableist and doesn’t like anything that is different from the concensus. People don’t like being comfronted with their being ordinary and dull and see anything that is out of the norm as a threat to their existence.
A conundrum that keeps spinning around in my mind is this one: “When is the best time to get a diagnose?”
Is it as soon as possible, so the autistic knows as soon as possible why people treat him as poorly as they will do and will always treat him this way? or is it better to be diagnosed late, so coping strategies are learned by trial and error instead of being spoonfed by “autism professionals”?
As you can see by the title of this piece and why the phrase by Albus Dumbledore struck such a chord, I myself, lean on the later side. Although I see the personal benefits of having an early diagnose, I think it changes how people will treat you and it will teach you another kind of ableism. You will be othered by way of diagnose. People will expect less of you because they know the stereotype of autism and will treat you as they would that stereotype eventually molding you into that stereotype which creates a self-fullfilling prophecy of an ableist stereotype.
The best solution would be something in the middle. Diagnosed early and told when the person is ready. When the person is going to need that piece of information to shape the rest of his character, and be mentored in the ways that will shape that character, like in Harry Potter.
In Harry Potter everybody around him knows he is a wizard. They know he will eventually become a wizard. Yes, the Dursleys protest, but their opinion doesn’t really matter. Harry grows up until he is ready to go to Hogwarts just as everyone else would. Learning all the necessary skills, going through the paces like everyone else would, being bullied like he would be anyway (people really don’t like different).
When that extra piece of information truly matters, during puberty when all the social changes come in all at the same time: your body changes, you get feelings for whichever sex you prefer (or both, or none), your voice becomes deeper,… I think this is the time that autistics need a mentor that truly understands what they are going through, that truly understands what makes them different, and when they are bullied at that point, can tell them why and how to react to it. When they want a relationship, to guide them in what to say, how to say it, etc.
This piece gives you two pieces of information: when I think is the ideal time to tell your autistic kids that they are autistic (at puberty, when they transition to high school) and how to deal guide them (get them an autistic mentor a few years older, or much older, one that already went through those paces).
disclaimer: this piece is strictly my own opinion and hasn’t been tested scientifically. It would be nice if it were.