The Metamorphosis of an Autistic Frog
by Alex Kronstein
When I was diagnosed as Autistic in the summer of 2012 at the age of 26, after years of my family and myself suspecting that I was, I had just hatched from the egg. I always knew I was different from other people my age, and it was a huge relief to finally know why.
Yet here I was, a newly-diagnosed Autistic, and I had not yet found the Autistic community. I knew Autism is not a disease, but I knew nothing about neurodiversity or the radical activist culture and communities.
I was a tadpole for a long time, clinging to submerged vegetation, feeding on algae, desperately trying to find somewhere that I could be accepted for who I was.
I joined a few online intentional communities, yet I still didn’t understand much about the Autistic community or culture. I was still supporting “Light It Up Blue” even though I knew very little about the harm that campaign causes, or how terrible Autism Speaks has been to the Autistic community.
In 2015, as my gills disappeared and my lungs formed, I discovered the neurodiversity paradigm. In particular, I discovered the wonderful publishing house Autonomous Press. I purchased their books Typed Words, Loud Voices and The Real Experts.
Those books, especially The Real Experts, were my first real introduction to the neurodiversity paradigm.
As my hind legs formed, I read lots more blogs and books by Autistic authors, and I lurked in more online communities. This is where I started to feel more accepted for who I am.
These online communities provided inspiration for me to start a podcast, The NeurodiveCast. On the podcast, I signal-boost many Autistic bloggers to give them more attention, and to enable people to hear the blog posts read aloud. My goal was to amplify the voices of the Autistic community, and in doing so, give non-Autistic folks another perspective on Autism.
As my front legs formed, I discovered Nick Walker’s “Guiding Principles for a Course on Autism”. This was one of the best essays I had read up to that point. I finally learned why it’s not enough for an instructor of a course on autism to merely be autistic. They must also be a supporter of, and participant in, autistic community, culture, and resistance.
As my tail shrank, I discovered Autistic Autoethnography. The best kind of “autism research” there is….no, the ONLY “autism research” that even matters!!
I feel my froglet body leaving the water and onto dry land, as I am finally liberated from the last shreds of the pathology paradigm.
And as I learn more about the intersectionalities between neurodivergence and gender, race, queerness, class and other aspects……
…and as I discover more and more elements of Autistic culture…
…my tail is fully absorbed into my body.
And I am now a fully mature adult bullfrog.
But that doesn’t mean my learning and evolution stopped.
I learned more about ABA and other compliance-based therapies, and the harm they have caused many Autistics and the harm they continue to cause.
The tipping point of my disdain for ABA was when I read Nina Fiore’s article “Inclusion and Acceptance are the Most Effective Autism ‘Therapies’”, where she describes her son’s horrible experiences with ABA…
…and as I read Bird Mad Girl’s powerful posts “I Abused Children For A Living” and “I Abused Children and So Do You”…
…that whet my appetite for some ABA mosquitoes.
And as I read Athena Michaels-Dillon’s “It’s Time to Accept That They Hate You,” and as I learn why it’s time to stop playing nice with non-Autistics who won’t ally with us,
my dedication to sharing the voices of the radical Autistic activist community only became stronger.
As tadpoles evolve into frogs, they are beneficial to the broader environment in which they live. In the same way, I hope the learning I share about Autism and the Autistic community is also beneficial to the communities and environments I interact with.
Alex Kronstein is an Autistic activist, filmmaker, and host of the podcast The NeurodiveCast. He was diagnosed as Autistic in 2012 after many years of his parents and himself suspecting that he was. Alex is deeply involved in the radical activist Autistic culture and community, and his goal is to see Canada become the first country in the world to completely reject the pathology paradigm. He lives in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Editors’ Note: Alex references a lot of great material on neurodivergence and activism, so we thought we’d include links to these pieces in this section.
- Nick Walker, “Guiding Principles for a Course on Autism.” http://neurocosmopolitanism.com/guiding-principles-for-a-course-on-autism/
- Ed. Michelle Sutton, Typed Words, Loud Voices. https://autonomous-press.myshopify.com/products/typed-words-loud-voices
- Ed. Amy Sequenzia and Elizabeth J. Grace. The Real Experts. https://autonomous-press.myshopify.com/products/the-real-experts-readings-for-parents-of-autistic-children-edited-by-michelle-sutton
- Nina Fiore, “Inclusion and Acceptance are the Most Effective Autism ‘Therapies.'” https://medium.com/@needsnyc/pathologizing-and-de-humanizing-of-autistics-982f7c130176
- Bird Mad Girl, “I Abused Children For A Living” https://madasbirdsblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/03/i-abused-children-for-a-living/
- Bird Mad Girl, “I Abused Children and So Do You.” https://madasbirdsblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/25/i-abused-children-and-so-do-you-a-response-to-an-aba-apologist/
- Athena Lynn Michaels-Dillon, “It’s Time to Accept That They Hate You. “ http://www.mmonjejr.com/2014/10/its-time-to-accept-that-they-hate-you.html