This is the problem with acceptance

Yesterday I wrote “This is the problem with awareness” so I think it’s only fair that I flip to the other sign of the coin and write about the problem with acceptance.

Acceptance Paradox

There is this “place” that people can reach when they have total acceptance. It’s a place of knowing who they are and being fine with it.

It’s called the Acceptance Paradox. You can read more about it here:

An excerpt from it, which explains how it goes:

“Instead of defending yourself against your own self-criticisms. You don’t try to build yourself up or fight back. Instead, you do just the opposite: You simply accept the fact that you are broken, imperfect, and defective. You accept your shortcomings with honesty and inner peace. The surprising result is that you can often gain invulnerability when you make yourself completely vulnerable and defenseless.”

PS, try not to read too much into the “broken, imperfect and defective” parts. This was written about humanity in general, not about autism or any other disorder/disability.

Now, in this article and as it is explained is that you make yourself invincible by no longer caring what anyone says about you.. that you accept you for you, for better or worse and you are completely at peace with that.

What I’ve seen of this though, is not always so peaceful and wonderful.

Acceptance vs Unwillingness to Change

I want to talk about etiquette and manners… one of Temple Grandin’s favorite topics.

Taken from

“The other thing is, teach these kids manners. I was raised in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and manners were drilled into me. I see kids [on the spectrum] today that have no manners. That’s going to hurt them. You can’t punish a child who is acting out because of sensory overload. But it’s unacceptable to see kids throwing things and slapping people. I see kids with Asperger’s [a mild form of autism] who can’t hold a job because they are constantly late. Teach kids to use an alarm clock. This is common sense and sometimes we forget about common sense. Autism is used too much as an excuse for bad behavior.” ~ Temple Grandin

To give a couple of examples:

During a conversation, sometimes an autistic can seem uncaring or rude due to a straight forward or literal response in a conversation. But autistics, like anyone, can learn to “think before you speak”… it may just be a bigger struggle. But that’s not even required so long as a simple apology is offered should those responses actually offend someone.

I’ve found several instances where, instead of an apology or explanation, the response is more so a dismissal of the other person’s feelings… that the person has to just accept the response as it is perceived (rude and uncaring) because the person who said it is autistic. They’re not allowed to be offended, they must have acceptance.

In this scenario, the autistic has acceptance, in that they may be perceived that way but they don’t care. And acceptance from the person they are conversing with in that they have to just not be offended no matter how rude the response may have seemed.

In this form of Acceptance Paradox, there is no real inner peace to be achieved. One person is offended while the other person thinks they should just get used to it.

An apology or explanation is certainly not always warranted… such as for a meltdown. Imagine a gathering at your house and when things get to be too much, sensory overload takes over and someone blows up, makes a scene and leaves. A short while later, they return and the gathering continues.

Is an apology necessary? Well, it shouldn’t be. If people are accepting, they simply know that the person needed a break for a bit. Still though, an apology does go a long way towards increased acceptance.

Imagine the person returns and says “I’m really sorry for earlier… I was just at the end of my rope, needed a minute… I’m ok now. I hope I didn’t disturb the party.” Everyone would be more than accepting… in fact, if anyone there was struggling with accepting such a scene, they’d now be far more apt to accept it now and in the future should it happen again.

Manners… they go a very long way.

Acceptance is Broken

There really should be no limits to acceptance, in a perfect world but really, there are.

This is humanity we’re talking about… autism or not. We all talk before we think, we all get offended sometimes, we all have to say sorry sometimes. And therefore, there are some limits placed on acceptance.

Just like respect, I can respect a person that I disagree with… even one that says or does something that I find to be in poor taste. I still respect them. I still accept them. I just don’t agree with what they said or did. That’s a limitation of my acceptance. Can a person be fully accepting and yet not accepting in certain situations at the same time?

Speaking of respect, it goes both ways. In the earlier example, person A is inadvertently rude to person B… and person B has to just accept it, without an apology? Let’s flip it around. If person B is offended and would like an apology… if there is to be mutual respect and acceptance, isn’t it now up to person A to be accepting?

Sure, person A could still refuse to apologize and insist that person B just be accepting of their unintentional rude ways… but that also means that person A has to now accept that person B is offended, which again, puts you into a paradox. How can you insist that a person accept you for being rude if you accept them for being offended by it?

In this case, acceptance is broken.


A Paradox

Speaking Personally

If my children offend someone, they say sorry. My children know not to be mean. My children know to say please when they ask for something.

If my children grow up to become bullies, I hope and pray that someone knocks them on their butt and shows them just how wrong it is.

I accept my children for who they are and I know they will do great things with their life. One has autism, one does not. I don’t care, it doesn’t matter. They’re both awesome. And I will do everything in my power to ensure that they know they’re awesome and never let what anyone says ever take that away.

But if either of them is ever lacking in manners, they’ll hear about it.

Because that, I won’t accept.

About Stuart Duncan

My name is Stuart Duncan, creator of My oldest son (Cameron) has Autism while my younger son (Tyler) does not. I am a work from home web developer with a background in radio. I do my very best to stay educated and do what ever is necessary to ensure my children have the tools they need to thrive. I share my stories and experiences in an effort to further grow and strengthen the online Autism community and to promote Autism Understanding and Acceptance.

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11 Responses to This is the problem with acceptance

  1. Virginia April 4, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

    Very, very well written. This is our constant struggle with our Aspie daughter. Getting her to think before she speaks. Thank you.

  2. Paula C. Durbin-Westby April 4, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    Acceptance goes way beyond whether someone has manners or not. Non-autistics certainly are lacking in manners, in their own ways. Autistic “lack of manners” is no reason to throw away the entire concept of acceptance. To focus on manners or rude behavior is to narrow the focus too much. The lack of acceptance that Autism Acceptance Day and Month, and other acceptance initiatives, tries to correct, is the lack of acceptance of Autistic people and autism in general, including trying to “normalize” us, “cure” us, make us into “typical” people neurologically. Media and fundraising organizations that demonize us, speak of us only in terms of “disorder,” are doing a great disservice to children and adults who are Autistic. Autism is not limited or defined by “Autistic bad behavior” any more than it is limited or defined by Autistic “good” or socially acceptable to the non-Autistic majority, behavior. What acceptance does is teach others, including my child (who is sometimes rude and also sometimes more compassionate than most adults), to embrace and cherish differences. This by no means precludes learning some commonly-held etiquette, if possible. (Some Autistic people will not be able to learn all the manners, but are still to be valued as human beings.) Temple Grandin’s oft-quoted “I was raised in the 50s and 60s when manners were drilled into us” is very simplistic. I was born in 1959 and was raised in the 60s. Whether or not manners (the manners that were popular then) were drilled into us begs the question. Many of us did not learn the “manners,” some of us could not comprehend them, and Grandin’s comment often seems to be an indictment of today’s parenting and today’s parents. Distance breeds nostalgia. I know my friends and I, all of whose parents “drilled” manners into us, were hardly the well-behaved little angels that Grandin’s comment implies. We were kids. We were learning, each at their own pace, each with whatever challenges our disabilities, or our non-disabilities, presented. That quote sounds like the all-too-familiar “He needs some discipline!” comment by unknowledgeable people when they see an Autistic kid being overloaded by a sensory trigger. As a parent, an Autistic parent, I will always want acceptance for my child, even as he is learning how to navigate the world. I want this for all children, and for adults on the spectrum. This longing, and demand for, acceptance does not mean that people have to “put up with” behaviors that are harmful to them. It does mean that non-harmful characteristics, such as stimming, or non-typical ways of learning, should be supported so that the person can grow up to be the best possible Autistic person, ultimately on their own terms. Non-harmful behavior that is merely inconvenient or not typical in aspect, that’s what acceptance suggests that people take a look at, to see if they can grow a bit and make some room in their own lives for something that does not fit their preconceived notions of “normal.” Hand-flapping (without someone trying to coerce us out of it), needing to wear headphones without being teased, attempts to communicate even if one person’s style seems “rude” because they have difficulties with social interactions, all these make up true acceptance for all people.

  3. Katrina Moody April 4, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    I think that this paradox is one that gets us all in trouble from time to time, especially if we write about acceptance, if we embrace advocacy.

    I know I had to step back from posting about something that deeply offended me, and use it as a chance to think more seriously about why I felt so offended. But that happens when people try to say that autism in and of itself is all bad … I’ll stop while I’m ahead.

    The fact is, acceptance — true acceptance — comes at a cost. That cost is that sometimes we will be offended by someone else and that sometimes we will be the one to offend. At that point, the question shifts from one of acceptance to one of awareness, I think, of the fact that not everyone will feel the same about a given subject (no matter how fervently you might wish to change their minds)

  4. Paula C. Durbin-Westby April 4, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    Having read your other post, on the problem with awareness, I agree that there is a continuum from awareness to understanding to acceptance. One need not dwell forever at the “awareness” phase, but actively seek out understanding. Then, one needs to move on to acceptance.

  5. Patty April 4, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

    You know what? you just addressed something I have been grappling with for a while. Some of the stuff I have been reading about acceptance has made me wonder, am I accepting my son enough? I make him apologize and we talk about feelings and I do not accept it when he is violent especially to others. It’s good to read this and be reminded that acceptance is NOT the same thing as letting a kid have free reign and hurt others. Thank you for validating me!

  6. Stuart Duncan April 4, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

    Paula, I certainly don’t wish to narrow the focus, much less throw away the entire concept of acceptance, that’s for sure.

    My entire focus, since day one, has been on understanding and acceptance, not awareness. I have an ebook by that name, a facebook fan page… absolutely, acceptance is the big picture, it’s the end game. And there’s SO MUCH to it.

    This blog post is simply an example of how… as the saying goes, too much of a good thing can be bad… I couldn’t possibly cover every single aspect, teaching and theory of acceptance there is… and include all of the nuances of the autism spectrum disorder as well… no one would read it.

    But as an example, I think this illustrates quite well how, even acceptance, which is the goal, has to be accomplished delicately and with some forethought. And yes, it goes for everyone… autistic or not.

  7. Alicia April 4, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

    I’m start to hate any quote from Temple Grandin, so ignorant. She is like a nonautistic autistic, same prejudice and harmful views nonautistic people have, I guess that’s why people quote her and treat her as someone that can explain all kind of autism. She doesn’t understand acceptance so quoting her on it doesn’t help.
    What the hell has manners to do with acceptance? I don’t think you understood what Acceptance means, acceptance means something else, acceptance is even used in some kind of therapy for things we do want change without hatred. Nonautistic people are rude, they are abusive to anyone different, I know manners because I was kindly explained why they exist and how they make others feel good, not as nonsense rules that people follow, I learned it, I also learned that nonautistic people don’t have manners, they have social conventions designed to excluded people. A autistic person that is polite but doesn’t interact the typical way is bullied, insulted, abused, have things said about them, etc, do you know who is going to be send to therapy and ignorant social skills class? Not the nonautistic abusers.
    Teach autistic people why some social rules exist, how to use them to make others feel good while respecting the fact they think differently is also acceptance.

    You make it sound like nonautistic people are all polite, kind and have manners, they aren’t but they are not going to be send to social skills because they are bullied trust me.

    The autism is an excuse for bad behaviour made me sick.

    Don’t worry, me and other autistic people were taught to be polite to those that hurts us, that’s more important than acceptance, being polite is more important than to make people stop hurting us. I smiled kindly when people called me the r-word and when I learned my teachers liked excluding me I said thank you, so I don’t need acceptance, I just need to have manners and keep thinking I’m rude if I ask people to stop staring at me.

  8. RM April 10, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

    Very good point. Autistics need to understand the basis behind socially acceptable behaviors, rather than teaching them mimicry. They need to understand how things work with regard to behaviors, society and manners.
    But can’t we also teach them to stand up for themselves and how and when it’s appropriate? That they should not have to endure being called names like retard, but should know a few acceptable ways to combat that without physical violence, cussing, etc. Can’t we teach people with autism that it’s okay to have a backbone?
    I am not autistic, but my 8 yr. old boy is, and I don’t want him smiling if he’s called a retard. I want him to either walk away or verbally defend himself. I used to be bullied, and I have learned to do the same thing. If they don’t learn to defend themselves, the bullying will continue. They will appear to be easy victims.

  9. Alicia April 11, 2012 at 12:09 am #

    Fight for ourselves doesn’t help, I was bullied by my entire school, kids and adults together and I was a child, it would be impossible to fight for myself, abuse victims are not supposed to need to fight for themselves.
    That’s a good thing to teach because the world is not fair, I agree, but that puts a lot of responsability in one person.
    Bullying is complicated, sometimes walking away or defending yourself can be worse, they could run after you or attack because you defended yourself.
    We need to teach people to defend themselves but that should a last resource, the right thing would be that people didn’t need to defend themselves because abuse would be wrong.
    The concept of easy victims is terrible because it’s victim-blaming but it’s never the victims fault. It was this kind of thinking to lead to the school sending me to therapy and letting the bullying continue, I was the problem.
    If acceptance of autism and diversity in general existed that would be less accepted, maybe the students or at least the teachers would know that was wrong, maybe instead of sending peopleare bullied to therapy they would send the abusers or teach about how wrong that is and respect for all people, anything that didn’t treat the victim as the problem.


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