Tone policing autistic speakers Click To Tweet

I recently heard a talk by an autistic speaker. This speaker has had awful experiences with professionals throughout their life. They have said that professionals nearly killed them.

Sometimes when autistic people speak about their life experiences, anger and resentment is obvious. This can make others feel uncomfortable. An autism professional complained to nearby autistic people that the speaker should not be so negative about professionals. The fact they are on stage ‘validates’ their views and many of the audience members were good professionals who had come to the talk in their free time.

Hearing this bothered me a lot because:

1. The speakers views ARE valid – they are a result of their life experiences

2. Few of the autistic people nearby even had a job to take time off from

3. If the speaker was angry about past life experiences they had every right to express that. We NEED autistic people to do so publicly.

4. Why must a speaker convey their whole history in a talk? Just accept the anger is justified.

5. There was no awareness that they had just made me and others feel silenced, sad, angry.

I did not say much in response. I mumbled something supportive of the speaker then decided to vent online later.

It is true the audience was likely to be biased towards professionals who ‘get it’ as they had chosen to learn from autistic speakers but in my view that does not mean autistic people should not express their emotions.

We learn over a lifetime to hide our emotions, to comply, to blend in. When we do get the opportunity to be heard please let us speak freely.