The autistic brain is not particularly good at understanding irony, and yet most people I’ve met on the autism spectrum have, over time, developed a pretty strong grasp of the concept. Many of us have even managed to teach ourselves how to wield it. I’ve begun to suspect that this is due to our constant hands-on experience.
Having an autism spectrum disorder in an ableist world means that you’re constantly exposed to cruel irony. Most frequently, this comes in the form of neurotypical (i.e. non-autistic) people who tell you, incorrectly, that you can’t or don’t feel empathy like them, and then stubbornly refuse to care about your feelings when they claim that you’re lost, that you’re a burden, and that your life is a constant source of misery for you and everyone who loves you. There’s also my current favorite: parents who are willing to put the lives of countless human beings at risk because they’re so afraid that the mercury fairy will gives their kids a tragic case of autism if they vaccinate. Gotta protect the kids from not being able to feel empathy — who cares whether other children live or die?
No matter what other lofty ideas of toxins and vaccine-related injury anti-vaxxers try to float around in their defense, that’s really what all of this is about: we’re facing a massive public health crisis because a disturbing number of people believe that autism is worse than illness or death. My neurology is the boogeyman behind a completely preventable plague in the making.
—Sarah Kurchak, detailing just how crazy the anti-vaccination movement really is.