This is an edited version of a piece I wrote a year ago, around this time. It still holds (and irritatingly, I keep seeing Tweets from fellow Autistics that we would “get along” better if we’d stop promoting Neurodiversity) even if the specifics are different now.
I was going to write a little post about “random thoughts” and they sort of congealed, when I also thought about The Silent Wave’s post about Neurodiversity yesterday. I’ve written in the past that I believe that Autism (or really any part of Neurodiversity) is not in itself a problem. An exception I can think of is perhaps schizophrenia, and even then, it’s only an issue when the voices want you to harm yourself or others. The voices themselves may or may not be harmful otherwise (but this is an area of the Neurodiversity tree I don’t know as well, so I may be wrong on that). I’ve blogged about the Social Model of Disability before, and it bears peeking at if you don’t know the difference between the Social and Medical models of the world. The TLDR reason is that Disability is not a problem; SOCIETY is the problem and until society stops presenting barriers, we will remain disabled. The classic example is someone in a wheelchair is not “disabled” until he or she cannot find the stairs. That’s what society did, not the Creator. So once you start seeing the world as the problem, not you, you do get a whole lot more positive about Disability.
So, here are my random thoughts that somehow connect to this:
What the Heck is Up with These “Women’s Magazines”?
I subscribe to magazines like Good Housekeeping and Better Homes and Gardens from time to time. They are dirt-cheap since they’re chock full of advertising and sometimes I get the wild idea they can help me to run a better home or what have you. Inevitably, I page through them, much like I used to page through Seventeen and YM and say to myself: do people actually do this? Since I know I’m Autistic now, I sometimes add things like “neurotypicals are weird.” ’cause they are. If you think about it, there are people starving in the world, we have an election going on in the U.S. that makes no freaking sense, and Isis is still going around doing shitty things to people under the banner of religion (and yes, we all know, they’re basically the Islam equivalent of the Westboro Baptist Church)…and these people want to show me how to dip a pumpkin to make it look neat for Halloween or how to organize a room so it looks so sterile that no one lives there. Okay. Thanks. Once in a while, I do pick up a good idea or two, but mostly it’s just me scratching my head at it all. I think if I made my own magazine, it would have organization tips (of course) but we’d also talk about stuff that really matters in the grand scheme of things, you know?
There is Nothing More Frustrating Than the Autistic Who Doesn’t Yet Know He or She is Autistic…
We have this girl in writing class who is clearly Autistic, but doesn’t know it yet. She stops conversations dead with her observations and she holds this wacked-out view of herself that doesn’t seem to fit with reality. She’s got face blindness (she knows this), but seems to insist her version of reality is the only version of Neurodiversity that fits. And that was some effort. She didn’t believe she fit under the umbrella of Neurodiversity at all with face blindness (aargh!). But we got her there. The trouble is, my Neurodivergent, yet allistic (not Autistic) friend and I wanted her to get further. After all, how often does she have the opportunity to have multiple people in class with her who are Neurodivergent and can then help her find herself?
Anyway, this was a fail. The young woman is definitely young. She’s in her early 20’s, and so she hasn’t yet had the mid-20’s shake up that most people have. She also seems to go to war with the very people who can help her (my Neurodiverse, allistic friend is also Indigenous and our would-be mentee called my friend’s work “too cultural.”).
Anyway, she’s quite unpleasant right now.
BUT initially my friend and I were all like, we get it, she’s young, maybe she’ll let us mentor her. But nope, she lives in her bubble and visits problems upon us because we care about her more than she realizes because we WERE her, younger. She’s running out of time to learn from Neurodivergent peers about who she really is, and it honestly pisses us off. In the end, is there anything more annoying to people who have embraced the Social Model of Disability than people who seem clueless that they are, in fact, Disabled? I don’t want her cured; I want her to join the culture while she’s got people around to help her along the path. But nope, she isn’t getting it.
By the way, she never did get it. I wonder if I’ll get an email from her someday when she gets “woke.”
Why are Autistics So Depressing?
Have you ever noticed how freaking depressing other Autistics can be? Usually the issue is that they have honestly never seen Autism as a blessing because they have a host of “ride on” conditions that make their life a lot harder than other Autistics, but sometimes it’s the normal thing about my life sucks and therefore it’s Autism. Autism doesn’t suck. I don’t care if you speak or not, or your IQ is high or low. Autism doesn’t suck. SOCIETY sucks. We have to get together and show the world why we don’t suck because, getting back to that stupid Disability presentation I reposted earlier this month, neurotypicals are more likely to see a class of Disability as positive if they have positive experiences with that Disability. That’s right: those Temple Grandin presentations (however you feel about her) are HELPING us. The more they see Autistics as capable, thoughtful individuals, the more likely they’ll overlook or help us with society’s quirks and, over time, the more likely society will stop Disabling us.
Okay, yes, we will also need to leverage laws (we all know a lot of those ramps and elevators went in, not because of someone going “hey, what about the people in wheelchairs?” but because a law made them put the ramps and elevators in), but over time, people will see the changes as “normal” and start doing them on their own. BUT we have to stop wallowing in our problems online and look to how we can make our lives (and the lives of others) better. By the way, this is why (for the millionth time) Autism Speaks sucks: they teach people to wallow in Autism, not revel in it. And they shout that message. We need to work together to improve our lives because AUTISM didn’t do any of the negative stuff in anyone’s life: comorbid conditions did some, and SOCIETY did most of it. Let’s work to fix society and help people manage their comorbid conditions.
Why Are We So Intense?
We Neurodiversity Advocates are intense. Referring back to point 1, neurotypicals typically don’t do “intense.” They like safe, politics-free magazines about home beautification. But think about all the progress Black Lives Matter has been making: People who are obsessed with facades are now actually thinking about police shootings.
Okay, some may still think it’s because “they deserve it,” but at least they’re thinking about it.
We have to make waves. But we don’t just make waves. If you’ve never read about the Black Panthers and all their social justice initiatives (which is easy to do because the media didn’t like to talk about this stuff), do yourself a favor and read One Crazy Summer. It’s a book targeted at grades 4-6 or so, so you can knock it out in no time and see all the social justice work they were doing in one specific neighborhood. We need to make waves, sure, but we also have to change lives. Autistics are underemployed and poor, by and large, because society doesn’t “get” them. We need to get more economic power for our people, and part of that is in building up our self esteem. We matter. We are important.
But people will not notice us if we don’t shout and/or get our voices amplified by allies.
We Must Work Together
In the end, I think the biggest problem with Neurodiversity is the Autistics themselves either 1) not realizing they’re Autistic or 2) thinking Autism is a death sentence or 3) trying to hide Autism like it’s a bad thing. Until we all get on the same page (dividing us is a tactic to keep us from amassing power, remember), we will not move forward.
Neurodiversity gives us a chance to snag a bigger piece of political and economic power.
This is why we cannot “pander” to people who don’t see the positives of Autism. We must unite as proud Autistics and then, among OURSELVES (not in public) we should discuss how to make our lives better. Only we can understand what we need. Our parents cannot help us (assuming they’re neurotypical), nor can the government (if we don’t tell them what laws to write, the laws will be useless to us). WE must help ourselves. And we start this, by loving who we are FIRST and then, working together, to make life better for ALL of us.
In the end, we MUST learn, within ourselves, what internalized ableist junk we’re still holding onto, and learn to let that shit go and be who we really are. Neurotypicals may pretend to let us into their world and we might be damned good at passing.
But we are not them. They will never let us win.
Neurodiversity allows us to disrupt their game, the game that is stacked against us. We will only win if, together, we BREAK the game and create a new game that INCLUDES us, by design, and not haphazardly and by chance.
THIS is how we move forward.