AUTISTIC people in Scotland are at a crucial juncture in the fight for our rights. We are left behind in virtually every setting, not least in the workplace where our employment rate sits at just 22%. Or in healthcare, where 80% of autistic girls remain undiagnosed at the age of 18.

This year, formal ­consultation is due to begin on the ­Learning ­Disabilities, Autism and Neurodiversity Bill (LDAN). A bill that has the ­potential to be a watershed ­moment in the emancipation of our community; a community that, until now, has been unforgivably let down.

Perhaps indicative of where we are on the priority list, consultation on this bill has been delayed twice and amongst the current selection of a new first minister, the bill has yet to be the topic of a single hustings, media interview or Q&A ­session. When it was announced in the ­Programme for Government, it was ­greeted with absolute silence by both the media and the masses.

As if we weren’t already in the ­trenches – clinging to hope that the next first ­minister won’t kick us even further into the long grass – we’re now continuously being used as human shields in amongst the anti-GRR narrative and our very real needs are being watered down by people who have never taken an interest in those needs, or indeed the LDAN Bill itself, ­until it became convenient for them to do so.

It’s a tale as old as time, autistic ­people are no strangers to being spoken for or being infantilised – and actually it’s that infantilising and incessant need to speak over us that has held us back from ­progression. Our continued oppression depends on this very mechanism, and we see you when you employ it.

The notion that all autistic people ­cannot advocate for themselves – or need to be saved by neurotypical people who think they know better – is one that has entrenched our inequality for decades. In fact, it is this misguided approach that has seen our progression so stuck in the mud.

We are so commonly left undiagnosed or misdiagnosed because the vast ­majority of the research and charitable work around autism is written and executed by neurotypical people, with very little input from the autistic community ourselves. Our existence has long been ­medicalised by neurotypical academics with very ­little authentic lived experience to inform their work. And our care – or perhaps more ­accurately, lack of – has been dictated to us on the basis of that research. Throw some high-profile ­individuals with deeply nefarious ­intentions into the mix, and you start to get an idea of the kind of ­impossible walls that we are attempting to scale.

The point is, using us as a justification for your opposition to the progression of trans rights is not only egregious in its ­targeting of the trans community – it actively perpetuates the harmful ­mechanisms that hold autistic people back and once again, speaks over the very real difficulties we actually want, and ­desperately need, help for.

Autistic people themselves are more likely to be LGBTQ+ and many in our community are directly impacted by this incessant bin fire of online – and offline – hatred. I know those who ­disagree with me will use that very point as their ­justification for dragging us into their opposition – but that is the problem in a nutshell. Their argument is based on the notion that autistic people need saving from themselves and the world, because they see us as incapable of ­protecting ourselves without their “holier-than-thou” input.

Let me tell you, the “neurotypical ­saviour” attempt is one with deeply poor results – suicide is the leading cause of death amongst autistic people, with more than six in 10 autistic people ­experiencing suicidal ideation or actively ­considering suicide. Why? Because no one is ­listening. Because we are ­screaming into a black hole and the only voices being given any credence are neurotypicals who, PhD or not, do not understand us and are ­incapable of understanding us to the extent that they need to in order to affect real and meaningful change.

Your performative activism is not ­helping us – it’s actively hindering us. And, your continued attempts to save us, quite literally, kill us.

The only experts in autism are autistic people ourselves – say it with me.

Our perspective is massively ­undervalued, the superiority of a degree and/or professional experience or indeed mere proximity to an autistic person, over lived experience, is precisely why we do not get anywhere. Frankly, the ­research and subsequent work is poor and ­continually demonstrates a lack of real understanding – ergo, the ­monumental mess that is our everyday experience. If the people who incessantly spoke for us sat down for a slice of humble pie and passed the baton to those of us who ­actually know and live the real issues, I ­guarantee you we would finally see the change you lot have been arrogantly forging the wrong path to for decades.

And on the cusp of, finally, some ­movement in the right direction – here come the anti-trans lobby to stomp all over it with full force – for their own, sole benefit.

Perhaps the worst thing about this though, is the use of our community as a human shield, covering for some of the most heinous bile on the internet. Let me be clear – unless you are an autistic person yourself, you do not have the permission to speak for us.

Autistic people, activated by our ­innate sense of justice, can often be found in ­human rights spaces campaigning against injustice. Yet here these people are, ­inserting us in the centre of what can only be described as profound bigotry. As an autistic person, I am ashamed and embarrassed that we are in any way ­being associated with the marginalisation of a community I deeply respect, albeit that association has been against my will.

THE same people putting autistic children in particular at the centre of their argument are unsurprisingly silent on the LDAN Bill – and we see through it. If your advocacy for autistic children begins and ends with GRR, your advocacy is not only hollow and meaningless, it’s precisely nothing to do with how much you value autistic people.

We are merely a convenient cloak, ­feeding the ego of people attempting to offset their deeply terrible behaviour by putting their saviour hats on for the poor wee autistics that don’t know any ­better. It’s an insult of the worst kind to our ­community and in a clear, unambiguous message from this autistic person – you do not and will not ever speak for me.

Ironically, the secondary harm you are inflicting on us from a multitude of ­angles is the real legacy you will leave in your so-called advocacy for us. You want to talk about being silenced? Look no ­further than the autistic community, and reflect on how you silence us in your never-ending quest to be “unsilenced”.

This bill is our chance to be heard, it’s our chance to finally make a significant change to our experience in Scotland – and if a commissioner is created, will be a world-first for our rights and has the potential to influence policy on an international scale. The stakes could not be higher, not just for autistic people here, but for the global autistic community.

Constant, laser focus on autistic people from the perspective of GRR serves only to water down the real help that this bill can provide us with. We don’t want to overturn GRR – we want access to ­diagnosis because we have the right to understand our own selves and our own needs. We want full access to the ­workplace because we have so much to offer and we’ve spent too long being told that we are useless. We want access to education because the rigid systems you employ do not harness our skills and ­talents – and at such a ­formative age instill an often lifelong belief that we are not good enough.

That is what we want. So, take a step back from your Twitter feed, and show up for us meaningfully. Engage in the LDAN Bill, write to your local MSP to ensure they stay committed to it, hold the three leadership candidates to account on their intentions for the bill – and most ­importantly, make space for autistic perspectives instead of assuming that you know better.

As an autistic person who has experienced some of the worst consequences of the oppression that we face, I beg you to park your saviour complex – before yet another generation of autistic children grow up facing the same treachery as those before them.