Monday, May 10, 2021

Elon Musk's autism announcement: Someday, it won't be a big deal to have a disability

Elon Musk's announcement on Saturday Night Live that he has Aspergers made headlines this weekend, not surprisingly. "I'm actually making history tonight as the first person with Asperger's to host SNL," the Tesla CEO said during the monologue, and the audience applauded. "Or at least the first to admit it. So I won't make a lot of eye contact with the cast tonight. But I'm pretty good at running 'human' in emulation mode."

There was immediate backlash on social media. People pointed out that Dan Aykroyd, one of SNL's original cast members, has spoken about his Asperger's diagnosis as a child. Others were concerned about use of the term Asperger's, which was eliminated as a diagnosis in 2013 and folded into the umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Some felt that Musk was perpetuating stereotypes. As Erin Ekins (@QueerlyAutistic) noted on Twitter, "The only 'awareness' that Elon Musk brings about autism is in regards to a certain presentation of autism (white, male, techy, awkward) which is literally the most over-saturated and represented presentation of autism across the media and society."

I understood the reactions. At the same time, I wondered if Musk's announcement could also be good for the autism community—one of the world’s most successful people publicly embracing autism might help soften the stigma. I wondered if that might have been what motivated Musk to speak up.

Most of all, I found myself wishing that it wasn't such a big deal. I've had the same reaction when people with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy or autism are in the news for being crowned prom king or queen or homecoming queen, for modeling in ad campaigns or appearing on magazine covers or for any achievement that typically wouldn't make headlines...except it did because a person with disabilities had achieved it. 

Last week, I got an email with the subject line "Disability isn't the opposite of ability." Yes, I thought: THIS.

I dream of the day when disability is perfectly ordinary and society truly understands that we are a world filled with people of all abilities—and that's a wonderful thing. 

I yearn for a time when people like my boy Max will not get second glances or glares or any of the extra attention that comes with having a disability.

I yearn for the day when people with disabilities will be such an accepted part of our society that they won't feel the need to come out. 

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your comment. I look forward to the day that these announcements don't matter anymore and no one bats at eye (although it is still worth celebrating).

    If I can be honest, I found Elon's announcement to be a bit of a PR gimmick and thus a tad insincere and opportunistic - but looking at the bright side, if it helps normalize things and destigmatize the experience for a community, then that's a good thing too!


Thanks for sharing!

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