I have been absent from posting in here for a while. I do want to say that I am honored to have surpassed 6,000 followers on my blog. I am still honored and slightly flabbergasted that many people think I am interesting. In a few days I will write a longer post about where I have been in the past few months. Believe me, there has been a lot going on in life.
Part one of a series looking at the ways the media represents autistic people.
Today I went to my first meetup for autistic people. It was both eye opening and interesting, I honestly had never spent much time with other autistic people. In fact I have never met any other autistic people in real life before. All of my friends and coworkers are neurotypical. So it was like meeting me for the first time. The last time I had ever spent any time with an autistic person was when I met Temple Grandin at an autism conference at UCLA 20 years-ago. Yes that Temple Grandin and yes 20 YEARS AGO.
The group was fairly diverse in ethnicity and age. As I looked around the room I saw myself being reflected back at me. That was not something I could ever experience with my neurotypical friends and coworkers. I sometimes felt that they did not understand me. That was probably because they are not like me at all and could not identify with me. Humans tend to socialize in groups with people that are like them. We call those similarities culture, religion and so on so forth. I guess there is some sort of autistic culture with its own body language and behaviors and the manner in which we perceive the world. I never noticed that until tonight. When I walked into the room I knew that I was in a room full of autistic people just like when I know when I am in a room full of neurotypical people. There was no criticism just acceptance and the freedom to be who we were without the need to conform to neurotypical norms. It was perfectly appropriate for one attendee to wear headphones to protect himself from noises. Some autistics are sensitive to noise. There was no pressure to act normal we could just be ourselves.
When I am with neurotypicals there is this pressure to conform to societal standards and to peer pressure which was the topic of discussion for tonight. When asked if anyone had an experience as to whether or not a neurotypical person had all pressured us into doing something we didn’t want to do, or try and take advantage of us or bully us, we all had a story to tell. It reminded that we all have had to struggle as a result of our autism. That commonality binds all autistics together in a way that I can’t with my neurotypical friends and coworkers. I think it is because no matter how well-meaning they are they don’t realize that they are part of the problem. They don’t understand us and we know and they don’t always know that we know it.
I believe that neurotypical people should take classes in how to behave like an autistic person and then act like one of us for a day and see what people say to them or how they are treated.
Either way being able to spend time with a group of people with whom I could identify with in manner. With this group it was perfectly acceptable to be socially awkard and miss social cues and not make eye contact with each other if we didn’t feel comfortable doing so. In fact, it seems we were expected to be that way, It was both freeing and fulfilling. It was a type of freedom that neurotypical people could not comprehend. I was free. I was just me.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 1,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 3 years to get that many views.
Too often people confuse personality with disability. I’m a person. I am not a disability. Autism is as much a part of me as my love of writing. I can do things much like everyone else. It’s sad that I have to say those things to people. It’s not enough to be aware of Autism. You must understand it. You must understand it affects all of those who are autistic differently. To be understood is something that every person on the planet wants. I want to be understood. I for one enjoy being around other people. Other autistics prefer to work in solitude. We are all different as the colors of the rainbow. We are not like Xeroxes where we all look alike or think alike. Humans are all different. And human is what we are.
- Disclosing Autism at Work: Strategies and Supports from Karla’s ASD Page (30daysofautism.wordpress.com)
- Autism & Sharing Social Skills Insights (squidalicious.com)
- Depression & Autism Parenting (squidalicious.com)
- UK News: Website to remove MMR autism claim (walesonline.co.uk)
- Mother Petitions For Autism Awareness (krextv.com)
- 6 Common Myths About Autism (everydayhealth.com)
- “Neurotypical:” For want of a better word. (autismandoughtisms.wordpress.com)
- Not Quite Everything Parents Need to Know About Autism Spectrum Disorders (lizditz.typepad.com)
I have decided that unless you are autistic or are the parent of an autistic you should be banned from discussing it, writing about it or holding conferences about it. Your ignorance pours out of your lips like a stale wine. You spread ignorance and stereotypes as if it was truth and then you post it online for the whole world to see and write books about it. All of this without actually taking the time to really get to know an autistic person without raising one without marrying one without befriending one? Of course. Its easier to treat that which you don’t understand like a lab specimen to be experimented on and talk about us as if we are not human but mice in cages. Its easier to run psychological tests on us as if you are testing our rationality and credibility and then presenting your findings at an Autism conference. It’s easier to do that than to just be our friend. Its easier to read about us in a book written by a person who is not autistic and full of stereotypes and over generalizations than it is to just actually talk to us. If you did you would see just how different we are. We are not space aliens yet you treat us that way. We are not crazy yet you treat us that way. We are not stupid yet you treat us that way. We are human yet you don’t treat us that way.
I became a journalist because of an innate sense of curiousity that I had since I was a child. I always wanted to understand how things worked. I wanted to help people. It is like a calling where the light burns inside brightly. That curiousity morphed later on when I was diagnosed with autism. I wanted to understand other people. I wanted to understand how they worked and report on their world and what they did so that I could hopefully understand my own and help others understand theirs, Then I discovered that as an autistic I was a bit of a curiosity to fellow journalists. As I spent time learning about their world, I was surprised that they were trying to understand me. I guess that is the way life works. When you see something you don’t understand as journalists we are compelled to figure it out and share what we know with others. That light it seems burns brightly in all of us who call journalism our profession.
I was reading this blog Asperger’s at Work: 5 Ways To Be Less Annoying. In it Penelope Trunk outlines 5 way Aspies should fit in while on the job.
1. Spend less time with people.
2. Don’t Tell Your Boss.
3. Be Great at What You Do and A Little Odd.
4. Do Office Politics by Being Totally Direct
These can be great tips to follow.
But as a friend pointed out it did seem like it was being suggested that I should hide who I am and in her words put on black face and put on a minstrel show for the world. Isn’t that we all do to some extent? Don’t we all put on masks that we wear publically so we can all fit into some standardized version of humanity?
Being honest and telling people that you are autistic is a lot like coming out of the closet. Its not an easy thing to do. People don’t always know what to make of it. It’s funny how when you do tell people some of them who you thought you were there friends shun you out of ignorance. Then there are the people who treat you as if you have a disease and claim they want to cure you. They don’t accept you for who you are.
I have to choose how and when and if I tell a person that I am autistic merely out of self-preservation than by a desire to be understood. The truth is telling people is never easy and I never know how they’re going to react. Sometimes I get the oh my friend/child/neighbor has it response. When that happens I feel a lot more comfortable. Even those people may not understand Autism. I don’t expect them to understand it. I expect them to understand me. We are all different. I am not like your friend/son/neighbor who is autistic. I am me.
When I come to work I have a simple philosophy: Do my job. Don’t complain about anything I am asked to do. Be on time. Greet my coworkers and not gossip about them. I leave any personal issues at the door and come to do my job. I try to be friendly and say hello when necessary because having a good relationship with your coworkers is as important a the work you do. I do this every time I come to work. I don’t gossip or create drama that just creates unnecessary strife. My job and my career are too important to me to let unnecessary strife ruin it. I try my best at work and give it my all. If I don’t do as well as I had hoped I come back the next day and try harder with a smile on my face and without complaint. Work is a source of joy for me and I eagerly wait for the days that I am scheduled to work or for calls to work when I am not scheduled. I am not concerned with being the best at the job I have but I am concerned with doing my best.