Sometimes I anger people, and even more so lately, but this does not bother me. Anger is their poison, not mine.
I believe in the good of people, and that we get locked away inside ourselves because we want to be accepted more than we want to speak objective truths. Since what is popular to believe changes, we must constantly redefine ourselves and somewhere along the way, we no longer know who we are. So we get angry, or frustrated. We act out, we judge.
All of us want to belong. We want to be accepted, and not merely tolerated. But somehow we think this can be achieved by dismissing our unpopular truths, and keeping quiet the child at our core.
Because I am Autistic, my view on this is dismissed as my lack of social understanding. But perhaps I have something valid to contribute. I’m not asking for the world to change to fit me, nor should it. Getting everything I want right now is shortsighted and restricts me from growing as a human. I never want to be too comfortable. When I am comfortable, I stop achieving.
So don’t give me everything I want. And please don’t give me what you think I need. That is equally shortsighted. Instead, give me and other Autistic people these things:
Give me your patience – Patience, even in the smallest amounts goes a very long way. Patience is an underdeveloped quality in many humans because it requires high levels of discomfort to grow. For comfort seekers, this makes their job harder. Autistic people have no choice but to develop patience. Not only do we have to be patient with our minds and bodies as we stumble through making connections, but then we have to fight societies conclusions on Autism. All of society, not just the NT world. Yes, even other Autistic people can create barriers for us especially when society creates Autism celebrities that fit only the stereotypes of acceptable autism.
I can play violin, and show clips of kids on every part of the spectrum doing the same, and still face a chorus of disbelief, and criticism. Inevitably someone in the crowd will isolate me saying, “but you’re so high functioning.” When facing this everyday, I have to be patient. I have to breathe and remind myself that I am disturbing people’s comfort zones, and their first reaction will be to defend it. But when they extend their patience to me, and amazing dialogue takes place. We both learn.
Give me your unguarded attention – When people come to Autism conferences, they typically have their own ideas about Autism that they are looking to validate. Each person that attends my presentation enters the room with a sort of wall in front of their faces. This is why eye contact is so difficult for me. Why should I allow someone to see into me through my eyes, when they are doing everything in their power to mask their own eyes? That is not my lack of social skills. It is the avoidance of asymmetry, a necessary form of defence for me.
As I caress the room for their unguarded attention, and the walls begin to fall, we develop a new understanding of Autism. Imagine how much more we could learn from one another if the guards were checked at the door.
Give me your hand – One of my favourite activities is signing books for people after they have heard me speak. I love the feedback, and especially enjoy hearing how I opened their minds to think differently. Helping my fellow humans grow is pure joy for me. But when the crowds clear, and the convention hall is emptied, I walk alone. It is a very rare occasion that I am invited to events or engagements not related to Autism advocacy. But I do understand why.
Living in a compartmentalized society, I fit into a particular category of people. I am sought after for information and support. I am an Autism Advocate, a teacher, and a musician. So people think of me only when these situations arise. I have come to expect this on a certain level, and I am ok with it, especially since the friendships I do have are so rich. I have awesome friends.
What does make me worry is that the community of support surrounding people with autism want for their kids that which they are unwilling to give other Autistic adults and professionals.
Trusting me as an Autistic teacher means you must also presume competence in me, and in doing so you must also trust and presume competence in your own child, now and into adulthood. The true stinger in that statement is the phrase, “into adulthood.” How many people truly believe that their Autistic child will be a successful adult? By parents and professionals opening up their social circles to people with Autism, valuing them as people, it gets easier to see a successful future and to convince society to do the same.
I am not asking for people to pity me and therefore invite me. There is plenty of pity to go around and I don’t want any of that. In fact, I would rather anger people by trying to expand their universe than to be conditionally accepted by their temporary contentment. It still doesn’t change the fact that I love people and truly believe they are good. So I will continue on everyday do something that scares me a little. Like most of the Autistic people I know, I don’t want to sacrifice achievement for comfort. Perhaps others could do the same.
Until next time,