Autism, community

Autism Acceptance Is The Goal

Valparaiso Art Festival - Valparaiso Events

So, today is Autism Awareness Day. There have been and still are and will most likely continue to be a variety of debates around this phrasing. Why? Because making neurotypical people simply aware that autism exists accomplishes about nothing as to what happens next.

Every time the human race learns about something new to them, the immediate question then becomes: Well, what do we do about it? Humans, in case anybody hasn’t noticed, aren’t really content to just let things be. This includes autism.

Autism has been seen as everything from an inconvenience to a plague upon society. (No, the irony of saying that while a real pandemic is going on does not escape me for a second.) Autistic people have, for years, been made to feel that how we naturally are is some sort of horrible mistake, and that we should either strive to become “like everyone else,” or at least feel bad about being different.

After being stuck in this cycle for decades, forced to believe it, and not fight against it, finally, one day, we autists became convinced there had to be a better way…and we started saying: “What happens next?”

The research, the stats, and our own experiences showed: Autistic children grew into autistic adults, and our sensory perception, social interaction challenges, and emotional processing difficulties did not go away. Yes, we could learn what others considered appropriate speech and tone and mannerisms; yes, we can frequently apply them. We can go to concerts, sports matches, the cinema, the theatre, camping and college and work. We can take public transportation, go to the grocery store, figure out how to create a Facebook account. Yes, we function very well in civilization.

But at what cost?

Because the bus is ALWAYS too crowded, the campground too muddy, the bar too loud. We will NEVER stop craving peace and quiet, and wondering if it really mattered that we didn’t get that joke all our co-workers laughed at.

In the midst of transitioning from thinking of ourselves as how the world thinks of us, to how we view ourselves, we discovered that the biggest barrier is NOT a lack of awareness of autism: It’s a lack of acceptance.

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You probably hear me banging on about this pretty often. With good reason. This is the hill I will die on: Being autistic does NOT make people less, nor should we have to change to make others around us feel more comfortable. We don’t need more organizations founded by neurotypicals explaining to other neurotypicals that we have “an intellectual disability that impairs motor function and social connectedness.” We need people who don’t relate to how we live our lives being OKAY with us being US.

We don’t need pity; we need tolerance.

We don’t need cures; we need accommodations.

What’s the point of making us just like the rest of the world?

It makes us less scary to those who place conformity above equality and liberty. And the god of Conformity has a pretty big altar in many civilizations today.

Who does it actually benefit when we’re forced to stop stimming, to mask our natural behavior? Not us.

Who will have a better quality of life because we aren’t automatically picked out of a crowd as neurodivergent? Not us.

This is how those of us diagnosed with ASD have been forced to live, for a very long while. When does it change? What happens next?

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I’m only one of many who wish for a world that doesn’t find it necessary to draw attention to my “quirks.” That sees the value in looking at things from another perspective. That won’t strive to take away parts of myself, claiming it won’t hurt.

It seems we’re born autistic, which means we don’t have any more control over it than our skin color or ethnic heritage. We can’t decide to be on the spectrum. But you can decide how to treat us.

Today, please note that #ActuallyAutistic individuals on Twitter are promoting a new symbol, a rainbow infinity sign that we are pushing over the blue puzzle piece, selected for us by neurotypicals who feel autism is a plague that needs a cure. We want to present as fact that we do, and should, feel pretty good about being us.

That ideal world I spoke of does not yet exist. (At least, not here on Earth. If it is somewhere in the galaxy, let me know, okay?) So we have to keep trying to make it.

Yes, it is a fight; people with intellectual disabilities being seen as equal is one of the newest waves in civil rights struggles. And we need advocates on all fronts: In our families, our schools, politically and legally, medically and socially.

If you’d like to join us, please, today, speak of acceptance. That’s the crucial word now. The cause, the goal.

We’ve already accepted that you think we’re different.

Now we’re asking you to accept that it doesn’t matter.

Fox painting by Art Jongkie | No. 657

Autism, health

Why Ableism Hurts Everybody

Desert

Why, yes, I am starting with such a controversial title.

This is a topic I’ve been wanting to tackle for a while. Now, remember, some of this is purely my opinion, but much of it is general consensus by the #ActuallyAutistic community, so while it’s still subjective, it should be accepted as good authority on the subject. And I’m warning potential trolls right now, I will not hesitate to block you.

Because, while everyone is entitled to their own views, you don’t have the right to tell someone else — who is living a completely different physical and mental experience than you — that theirs are absolutely wrong.

Okay, here we go…

The definition of ableism is someone who is without disability, disorder, or medical condition, and who believes that they are therefore superior to people who do live with any of the aforementioned. As recently as 30 years ago, a lot of “normal” people were kind of ableist without even realizing they were behaving in an offensive way. (Sort of similar to growing up in a culture where many are racist — if you’re not taught differently, you’ll think this is a regular state of thinking. Which is why the cycle has to be broken somewhere. More on that in a second.) Up until the early 21st century, very little was known about autism, learning disorders, various mental health issues, etc. — in some cases even by medical professionals — so terms like “retarded” weren’t considered hurtful or inaccurate.

Nowadays, though, a growing number of the general population knows better. Many doctors and psychologists have reclassified autism from a mental illness or a disease to a condition or disorder. Treatments to help manage anxiety and sensory-perception-induced stress are a lot more common now than even a decade ago. Some businesses, such as supermarkets or theaters, offer “autism-friendly” hours for shopping or attendance, and the lights will be turned down and crowds of people not permitted in.

All of this sounds like society as a whole is becoming more tolerant of the smaller groups traditionally relegated to its edges. Unfortunately, that’s not entirely true.

Too many of our relatives, neighbors, teachers, classmates, co-workers, employers, and random people we may cross paths with still look down on us, feel pity for us, and wonder why we wouldn’t do everything we could to become “normal.”

Here’s the reason this is ableist: Someone believing our lives will be less if we don’t go to the cinema, concerts, sports matches, or even drive in rush hour traffic is unfair and unbalanced. Such a view imposes simultaneous expectations and restrictions on us that we can’t hope to meet, or to be comfortable with. Standards for “average” people are not our standards, so trying to force us to reach them isn’t kind, or in fact helpful. Taking away our comfort zones isn’t beneficial, since most autists put firm boundaries in place to save our emotional and physical nerves. We won’t become “more” or “reach our full potential” by striving to act like “everyone else.”

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There are still too many therapists whose goal is to make sure autistic children appear “less autistic.” Their aim is not to teach kids who struggle with empathy how to walk in another’s shoes; rather, it’s to repress or even remove the impulses that come naturally to us. We stim because our bodies don’t receive and process external information in the same way the bodies of neurotypicals do; we are not purposefully hoping to come off as “weird” or “fidgety.” We tend to avoid or stay away from groups of people, especially strangers, because they’re simply often too loud and confusing for us, not because we’re determined to dislike them and their ordinary-ness. We don’t share their interests or pursuits for a number of reasons, most of which are hardly rooted in disdain or pure selfishness. Many of us hold little to nothing against “them,” and all we ask is to be extended the same courtesy.

There’s an odd disconnect between how society views autism versus other disabilities or conditions. For example, people with physical limitations, as a result of injury or illness, seem to get much more respect than those of us on the spectrum. There have been specialized parking spaces and store entrances and more accessible homes for such circumstances for a while now. But autists are still, for the most part, expected to just walk into stores where the lights are too bright, to live in apartments where the neighbor’s music is too loud, to speak on the phone to a complete stranger to resolve a billing dispute, and just deal with it.

It means that living in a world we have to constantly conform to — in ways that put our health at risk — is difficult, degrading, even dangerous.

We don’t ask to have autism; we don’t choose to be on the spectrum. It seems we’re born there, which means the decision or assignment is utterly out of our prenatal hands. While many of us accept how we are, learn to manage the downsides of our condition, and often even find identity and solace in the way we give our all to our passions and keep trying to pinpoint the bright side of life, we’re also frequently told this is “settling” or “unacceptable.”

I still don’t understand why. And I’m not alone.

Ableism not only hurts autists; ableism shuts out other points of view to the ableists. They could be learning something from us, something that might make their world a lot bigger.

And if we didn’t feel so oppressed by ableism, if we felt welcomed to “come as you are,” could we gain as well?

Tulips

Autism, Encouragement

The Times Are Changing

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It’s not that I absolutely hate change. Change can be good, if there’s a situation or person or circumstance that’s really doing my head in; that altering or coming to an end will actually be beneficial, even if sometimes it doesn’t feel like it right away. But a major part of why autists don’t like change is because whenever something different or new happens, we can’t predict how it will make us feel — physically, and sensory-wise, and that can twist up our possibly already-challenged emotions. So, whenever I’m on the cusp of change — especially when I didn’t start the ball rolling for it — I get rather antsy.

We like our lives to be predictable, for all the aforementioned factors. Unfortunately, there’s also the danger of falling into an unproductive or unhealthy routine, just for the sake of keeping everything the same. And the past several weeks, I’ve found myself getting almost stuck in a pattern that meets basic needs, but doesn’t achieve certain goals. It can also be really intimidating for us to attempt going out of our comfort zones.

This past fall, after a long time of being a stay at home mom and focusing on writing, I started two new, outside-of-the-house, part-time jobs. And it was all good, and I have no regrets. But in the last couple of months, as the new-ness of an unfamiliar schedule became more common, and I realized I could go from thinking of myself in this “new” role to simply…being in these roles, as the dust of that settled, something else showed itself. I was having difficulty adjusting thinking of myself of being in my new roles as well as my old.

I hadn’t just stopped being a mother, or a writer, or a reader, overnight. On the surface, I knew all of that. Just because I had learned to be a library clerk didn’t mean I’d forgotten all my training in childhood development. Teaching ballet to adults for the first time didn’t invalidate or erase teaching it to children previously.

But somehow, the reality of my current situation and the intangibility of thoughts of the past weren’t clicking together.

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Then the other night, I was watching this horrifically boring documentary…and a really great story idea came to me. And I wanted to write it, badly, right then, at nine p.m., when I had work the next day. And all this week, as first one thing and then another and another have gotten in the way of my doing so, I palpably feel the ache of not writing enough.

This was also when it really sunk in, with the flair of an epiphany — whatever else I am, I am an artist. A creative and a creator. Even if I have to have a day job. Even if I get too busy or too tired to pen an entire novel in one sitting or choreograph a 15-minute piece, this doesn’t mean I won’t attempt it one day, very soon.

When you like your schedule to be predictable, reconciling the need for sporadic change — springing from the core of what makes you you — with a set routine can be pretty tricky. Having so many different ideas for projects means I won’t always be working on the same thing. That can be scary. That could put me off starting something new.

And that could stunt my creative growth — and in turn, my personal growth.

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So, I could either give in to the temptation to keep everything the same…stay in my comfort zone…and remain artistically frustrated…or step out and shake things up.

It’s not always easy. It comes with its own obstacles. I might get distracted, have to put aside or revise plans, or let go of smaller ideas. There will very probably be moments when I question the point of doing any of it at all.

But in the end, if I don’t go ahead…that would result in the worst torture ever.

So, I foresee…change.

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Autism, writing

An Autistic Author’s Struggles

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So, most of you are aware that I’m a self-published author, and an autistic everything. While having autism doesn’t automatically mean there are occupations I’m not cut out for, writing does present certain particular hurdles.

You can’t write because the faucet is dripping too loudly. Most people on the autism spectrum are extremely sensitive to external stimulation — such as noise, light, texture, taste, and smell. Just one of many examples I could come up with is a leaky faucet that results in torturing you right out of creating a sensible plot point or engaging dialogue. It may seem silly to some, but if you’re already having trouble figuring out a character’s witty next line, or what the code to the secret door should be, and that relentless drip-drip-drip feels like it’s leaking straight into your brain…

We tend to hear/see/feel life on a scale of 11. Everything is heightened to our senses. And it’s not something we can just learn to ignore or turn off. We can find coping mechanisms (sometimes we just have to, if we want to ever leave the house), but our bodies will simply never stop taking in physical information at these increased measures.

So we may need to wear noise-cancelling headphones, or carve out a time to write when no one else is around, or go somewhere like a library where people are encouraged to be quieter.

Unfortunately, exiting your familiar environment can throw off your regular method for keeping the creative juices flowing…

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You can’t write because you don’t know who may come through that door, or if this chair wobbles, or when a bat might land in the toilet.

In my case, being surrounded by a common atmosphere and objects — and all of the blessed predictability this entails — really helps me remember where the heck I was going with that scene or plot thread. Also, one’s stress is lessened by the freedom of being able to get up and go make a cup of tea whenever, and not worrying about someone taking your spot (which is a real concern in a cafe or library or bookstore). And the bat in the toilet may sound extreme and totally invented, but this actually happened in my local library a couple of weeks ago. If I’d been around during that incident, it would’ve meant not a single sentence got written for about a week.

And your productivity suddenly grinding to a halt is a valid concern…

You can get too easily distracted from what you were writing, or intending to write. Many authors admit they have ideas for about 14  new books all swirling around their heads at once. Whenever I’m in the middle of a project, I can guarantee a new and astoundingly brilliant idea will pop up from the ether…and proceed to take over my entire soul.

My mind and heart will immediately become consumed with the fervor for tackling this sudden notion. It may be utterly out of my usual genre, setting, or time period; it may require research that I really won’t do until much later (if ever!); it will definitely take me away from what I had been devoting myself to.

And then I will either abandon the new thing (after approximately 2 days to 2 weeks), or the new thing will turn into my usual thing, and the previous usual thing will…just sit there…until…the end of the world?

At the moment, I am on the third draft of Volume 4 of my fantasy series. Guess when I started it? June 2018. Guess when I last worked on it? May 2019. Yup…

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You may be kind of rubbish at time management. Being autistic often means we get caught up in dedicating large chunks of time to one certain task or endeavor. We’ll feel satisfied, after a 6-hour binge of reading up, that we now know everything there is to know about how 17th century castles were built. But our families or friends may be rather miffed that we didn’t do the errands/chores/socializing we had already promised to do in those 6 hours.

And we honestly were not being selfish or intentionally avoiding other responsibilities. Some of us are simply “time blind”: We just don’t realize how long it takes to accomplish an objective, or how quickly time is passing while we’re engrossed in whatever.

There are several ways to learn time management: set a timer, stick to a strict schedule, keep a daily planner or constant bullet lists and check items off as they’re completed. These strategies can work on your writing, too.

One of the benefits of self-publishing is that I set my own deadlines, and can always push it back if I need to. And “need” comes in a variety of shapes and sizes…

You just don’t feel like writing today. Or next month. Or anytime this year. I’ll confess: I am in awe of authors who sit down and just write the next chapter, get up in the morning and repeat…until the piece is simply finished. While my time management skills are pretty good, there will always be instances when the inner motivation to knuckle down on a project just doesn’t exist.

And this could be because:

  • I didn’t sleep well last night.
  • When I went to the grocery store this morning, someone gave me a weird look as I muttered my shopping list to myself.
  • The last time I tried sharing part of this WIP with others, I got laughed at — not in a good way.
  • I absolutely cannot imagine what would push my character forward when all I feel like doing is hiding under the covers with my cat.

Anyone who claims part of ASD is “not having feelings” is an idiot. We experience so much of life so strongly, and emotions are no exception. Tiny, unintended offenses committed by people who look down on us because of our stimming or the intellectual defects they imagine we have affect us deeply. Neurotypical individuals who show blatant shock at our “juvenile” preferences or “delayed” coping methods will make us second guess ourselves all day…or until the next decade.

The last time I tried sharing some of my writing with people who said they wanted to know more about my process, they were surprised I was writing fantasy, surprised even more that I was writing YA fantasy, and the combination seemed to lead directly to them no longer wanting my advice. That fact was not only heartbreaking and devastating, it meant that Volume 4 pretty much came to a dead stop. That was over a year ago, and…well, I admitted it’s just sitting in a drawer.

Which brings me to…

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You may feel like you’ll never measure up to “other” authors. This can be the biggest single hurdle. The imposter syndrome can hit anybody; but autists are already prone to feeling inferior, and if we hit resistance from people who professed interest in our work, until some little switch was flipped, it hurts. A lot. It can derail our entire purpose in writing to begin with.

There are moments when I have to give myself a pep talk. Concrete stats: 5 books published in two and a half years. Several positive, even glowing, reviews. A devoted Twitter tribe. Consistent traffic on the blog. Hundreds of comments of appreciation and encouragement.

Remembering that the naysayers can go stick it to the land of no sunshine feels like the tallest wall.

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Autism, Encouragement

God Created Us, Too

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Religion can be a tough one for neurodivergents. Either we just don’t have the sort of cognitive processing that allows for discussions on philosophy and spirituality to really land on an even footing; or we have such bad experiences with organized religion that we tend to stay away from the institutions completely.

I’ve been on both sides of the coin in this issue; I’ve attended churches where people clearly thought my family was demon possessed (instead of simply developmentally disabled); and studied non-mainstream belief systems that seemed a lot more accepting of people who didn’t quite fit a norm or traditional standard.

It took me a while, but eventually I figured out that what other people think of me or want from my family isn’t anywhere near as important as what God thinks of me.

For thousands of years, all sorts of conditions that provide challenges or limitations, based on the way our society works, have been considered curses or ill luck. That point of view almost always came from a human perspective, rather than anything specific you’ll find in sacred texts.

If someone is suffering, in any number of religions, you’ll come across several references to miracles being performed by a deity or divine agent, to bring forth welcomed healing. People who genuinely felt afflicted by whatever their situation was were grateful for the cosmic intervention. Not that I have a problem whatsoever with that.

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What I do have a problem with is my entire self being thought of as a disease.

When you read the New Testament, the whole point of it is that the Crucifixion and Resurrection occurred so that everyone could receive grace. If you truly believe that, then there shouldn’t be space in your creed for exceptions.

I will never be one of those women who can parent, homeschool, attend every single Bible study, sit on the committees, and turn up to all the ministry events or conferences. Especially not with absolutely perfect makeup, or recently re-styled hair, utterly fashionable clothes, and chances are high my purse won’t match my shoes.

And I finally realized a couple of years ago that I am OKAY with all of that.

There’s nothing wrong with the fact I’m on the spectrum affecting how I dress and socialize, what my interests are, how I’d prefer to spend my free time. We live in a culture that sets out certain expectations and roles, but these aren’t necessarily the purposes God calls individuals to.

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Why would it be so unimaginable that God can be using me to stretch others’ minds, to open their hearts? Why does the only point of my existence have to be so that God can perform a miracle by “healing” me…when it may very well be that autism isn’t what needs the restoration?

Why is it such a terrible thing to be different? Why does the world think we deserve the opportunity to become more normalized, to fit in? What if all of that is completely irrelevant to us living our best lives?

The major reasons I struggle with particular environments or circumstances is simply down to the way my brain is wired — physically, my nerves prefer quiet to loud, small to big, the arts to sports. I get overwhelmed when the world decides it isn’t going to adhere to these requirements. And, honestly, I don’t hold it against the people who are fine with that.

All I ask is that they do the same for me.

Here’s what I don’t need: People trying to get me to change who I am in order to have a “better life.”

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We still don’t know what causes autism, but I stand firm by my belief that, no matter what, an all-powerful God would know who was going to be born on the spectrum…and let it happen, for whatever reason. Just because we don’t understand why an unusual arrangement of neurotransmitters just is in some brains doesn’t mean it’s the result of random chaos that will ultimately ruin our carefully constructed civilizations.

People need to worry about bigger, more real problems than autism.

If the prevailing Good News is that we’re all loved and redeemable, then why should it be any different for neurodivergents?

My condition is nothing to be ashamed of. It doesn’t require a cure.

God created us, too.

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Autism, reading

Review: The Boy Who Steals Houses (Arm Yourself, With Tissues and Cake)

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MAJOR WARNING: IMPENDING SPOILER ALERT. I will try not to blow the lid off the entire plot, but this time it will be a challenge. You cannot say I didn’t make a disclaimer.

And there is much flailing (and not always the good kind — sorry, everybody) to be done over CG Drews’ 2019 release, The Boy Who Steals Houses. It’s a contemporary novel focusing on the broken and battered teenage Sammy Lou, who eventually finds that his life, and his heart, can be mended.

There are complicated and sad factors at play here: Sammy and his older brother, Avery, have run away from a neglectful home, and they’re both barely scraping by, using minor theft and breaking and entering to stay off the streets. Is it the best choice? No. But have these boys been gnawed up and spit out by a world that refuses to accept Avery’s autism? Yes, they have.

This is at the core of the plot’s conflict: Avery is autistic, and because of it he was consistently ridiculed, punished, even physically beat by the adults who were supposed to be taking care of him and Sammy. Sammy got used to sticking up for his brother because no one else was. Sam was forced to grow up way too young, and nobody taught him the proper way to handle difficult situations.

Into all of this comes the De Lainey family, a widower with 7 children to raise. The older kids — twins Jack and Jeremy, Grady, Moxie — are all teenagers, and help out with the younger ones and their dad’s construction business. Through pure happenstance (no spoilers here, I promise), Sam winds up being mistaken as a friend of a De Lainey child, and so begins a beautiful, perfect summer he so, so desperately needed.

Most of Sam’s backstory is nothing but tissue fodder. (Hey, better I prepare you now.) It shows the worst side of adults — neglect, abuse, refusal to understand developmental disabilities — and while it’s hardly pleasant, it is important to let the world know there ARE autistic children treated this way. And because Drews is herself an Actually Autistic, she doesn’t just want people to know, she wants people to give a damn.

And after reading 340 pages about the Lou brothers, you will.

Under all this horrible mess that has become their lives, these boys are sweet and smart and so pure at heart, and you never doubt that rooting for them is the right way to go. Do they get it all right? No. Do they need some attitude adjustments? Yes. Is all of this possible? Absolutely.

See, the biggest problem for Sam and Avery is that they’re just kids, and they had THE WORST role models ON THE PLANET. When you’re neurodivergent, you don’t view the world the way most people do, and you won’t know the difference unless someone points it out to you. The true villain of this story is the Lou brothers’ Aunt Karen, who really should be in prison for child abuse and failure to provide proper care for a disabled minor. The saviors of the story are the De Laineys, because they LISTEN and HAVE HEARTS and DON’T CARE that Avery’s different.

The ending of this book — that will steal your heart and charm the pants off you, then break that cardiac organ, with a hammer, no less — is just, and makes sense, and there is SO MUCH LOVE AND HOPE. It’s also realistic — teenage runaways who steal things and get in trouble with schools and peers and others who are breaking worse laws than petty theft do have to face consequences for bad decisions. But is it totally unfair to Sammy and Avery Lou? No, it’s not.

And this is the most vital part of it all. While Drews includes the harder, fiercer, colder, make-you-curl-in-a-ball details of such circumstances, she doesn’t throw her boys to the wolves and leave them to be scattered by the wind. The De Laineys are there to pick up the pieces and reassemble them. There will be LIFE for the Lou brothers after the end of the last page.

Oh, and another massive reason you should read this book? My name is in the acknowledgements.

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Seriously, just go order it already. You can find it on Amazon, Book Depository (free shipping!), and bookstores in the UK and Australia!

 

 

 

Autism, blogging

Letting Go

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One of the hardest parts of reaching the point of no longer being ashamed of your “disability,” in actually taking pride in being how you naturally are, is working through the guilt and dishonor that comes from a lifetime of the world telling you you were wrong, messing up, not in tune.

Admittedly, this can be a rather daunting task, when all of your society — in some instances, those closest to you — keep reinforcing that your condition is not something that you should be “stuck” with. After all, it’s why there are these treatments to get you more “included” in civilization.

The unfortunate, brutal truth of that approach is this: The majority of these treatments are to make other people feel more comfortable around us. To get us to blend in, to stop stimming in public, to get a handle on our emotions, and fade into the background, rather than stand out for being different.

Counseling to make us work through emotional obstacles that we don’t understand probably won’t raise our self-esteem. Training us to mask our autistic traits only results in creating more, deeper anxiety, and that often leads to actual physical illness. Trying to force us to be “normal” is about as sensible as forcing a lion to become a vegetarian.

For a while, I fell prey to this feeling that everything I am was wrong, and should be changed. I encouraged a younger White Fang to participate in therapies that would teach him to think and process things like “regular” people. Not to build understanding and empathy in him, necessarily; more to eventually convince him that he could one day act like that, too.

I didn’t want my baby boy to be bullied, repressed, discriminated against like I had been. Like I still am. But recently I’ve realized that the best way to fix this is NOT to make him change. It’s to change the perspective of those who come across him.

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Are we perfect as is? No! Do we sometimes hurt feelings by speaking in a tone or with body language that takes others aback? Yell out phrases or thoughts that humanity finds impolite? Yes — and who doesn’t, at some point in their lives? Do we react suddenly to strange circumstances or unexpected events, do we accidentally cause distress to random passerby? Yes — and again, who hasn’t done or said something they wish they could do over?

Are autistic children harder to parent? Sometimes. But how many neurotypical children throw tantrums, break toys, refuse to eat their dinner? Plenty. And does the world view them as problems that will never be solved without government or medical intervention? Hardly.

The biggest difference between us and the NTs (and honestly, I hate having to divide the world into camps like that, but it wasn’t my decision) is that we have concrete neurological and physiological reasons behind everything we do. Either it’s our external environment or something internal that causes overstimulation or brings us to a shutdown or meltdown. We truly aren’t doing it just to make other people mad or upset.

Motives like greed or envy rarely influence us. We know what we need and what we like, so we generally are content if we get it. We aren’t spoiled for knowing there are certain requirements to maintain our calm and well-being.

So, while we sadly do still have to fight the uphill battle to convince others of these facts, in the meantime, we can apply them to our own hearts.

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Would it benefit us to tamp down our anxiety? Absolutely. Does it mean we’re horrible, vile, screwed-up people beyond redemption if we suffer a setback (or many)? Not one bit.

Do we need to keep beating ourselves up for being different? No. What’s the fricking point of that?

Will our lives not be what parents, neighbors, teachers, authorities envision for us? Most likely not. Do we have to follow their plans to feel successful, accomplished, happy? No way.

Will we feel more accepted by the “average” folks if we conform? Sadly, yeah. But will that actually make us feel better? Experience is proving no.

I don’t have it all figured out yet myself, but the best advice I can come up with at this moment is: let go.

Let go of a sense of worthlessness. Of loss. Of missing out. Of having made mistakes.

You are okay. You have made it. You are further today than you were last month, last year. You can keep moving forward.

Let go of striving to reach someone else’s ideal. Let go of not being “enough” for people who don’t really want you.

It’s all right to be different. To be yourself. To want to feel whole.

Do it. Go. 

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