Posted in Advocacy, Autistic Identity, Identity, intersectionality

Dear Late Diagnosed Person

To the Late-Diagnosed Person–

I hate that term, Diagnosis, since it sounds like someone had to validate your very existence.

I prefer the term “awareness” or “validation.”

Awareness is when you knew your brain operated differently.

Validation is when someone said, “Hey, your brain works differently” and they didn’t mean it as an insult.  It just was a fact.

How do we ever know what it’s like in our heads, as compared to someone else’s?

I think one of the interesting things about finding out that we’re Autistic in particular, though this really goes for any Neurodivergent quality, is we get to actually think about what other people see inside their heads, and then we encounter a whole lot of interesting information when we realize that everyone is not doing what we’re doing.

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Posted in Advocacy, Autistic Identity, intersectionality, leadership, Teaching

The Rest of Us Just Live Here: Accepting That I’m Not a Superhero

The thing about being Autistic, I think, that can be really detrimental to living a functioning adult life, is that we believe a lot of what we’ve been taught.

Think back to all those posters on the walls at your schools.  Think about all those heroes they made us read about, so that we could learn to cultivate all those virtues “they” wanted us to all have.  We were supposed to be honest, hardworking, and compassionate.  We were supposed to save the world!

But, as we Autistics have found, we aren’t really supposed to be too honest.  Being too honest doesn’t work out so well for us.

A lot of people can hang out at the water cooler (literally and metaphorically) all day long, and yet they seem to get ahead at work.

And when you give so much that it hurts, all that happens is you’re hurt.  There is no reward.

And yes, it’s all possible for all this suffering we go through on this earth to be rewarded in the afterlife, but we see so many people flagrantly ignoring the rules we were overtly taught and internalized, and they do, in fact, get ahead on this earth.

If they meant that honesty, diligence, and compassion would mean not a danged thing now, but might or might not in the afterlife (if it exists), why the heck didn’t they just say that?

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Posted in Disability in Education

The Null Curriculum: That Which We Dare Not Speak About

At a Diocese meeting yesterday, the other principals were surprisingly helpful, trying to see what they can do to help me personally and professionally.

It was kind of creepy.  I’m not used to colleagues caring.  Then again, it was probably easy for them to see that it could happen to any of them, so they are genuinely concerned.  If I became a wheel in the machine, I would expect to see fake caring, the kind of thing neurotypicals do because it’s expected.

This was genuine.

Beyond that, though, there may be a job open next year, through one of my colleagues who told his priest he was only doing the job for one year.

The holy spirit may be at work here, because this is also my priest’s home parish (his parents, who adore me, are parishioners) and they have Spanish-speakers, besides.  We share a teacher who comes to do some religious education at my school who likes me a lot (and she has the ear of the priest besides).  Also, they are not in danger of closing any time soon for they are closer to full and well-supported financially.

I’m not sure if anything comes of it, or if I want to be at the mercy of another priest’s whim, but this particular priest is older and more experienced, which comes with it both good points and bad points.  It’s less likely that what happened to me with a sudden school closure would happen there, though.

On paper, I know I am valuable (I went over my CV; it’s a bit gappy in places, since, well, Autistic; but it’s got a solid combination of degrees, educational experiences, and professional “appearances” that I’m kind of a unicorn in the K-12 market), but I am still Autistic.  I know this is a strength, but sometimes it’s just people getting past my oddities, to see it.

Having people trying to open doors for me, though…this is what I needed.  I tend to get jobs this way, with someone pointing out how great I am first, and then we can go from there.

I’m told neurotypicals get jobs this way, too, through connections and networks, but it’s hard to get that narrative of working hard leading to success out of your head.

It’s amazing what stories we tell people about how to get ahead, which we don’t really mean.

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Posted in School Leadership

Going Back for the Others?

Jonathan Kozol once wrote semi-admiringly about free schools as a concept.  Free schools don’t mean public schools; there was a movement to do these kinds of schools where students do all the decision-making.  It’s kind of like unschooling, but in a school format.  It’s brilliant, but it presupposes a view of childhood that most people find unnerving: that kids can think for themselves and make good decisions.

In my experience, in fact, they can, once they get past the idea that they can, in fact, do nothing and have ice cream all day.  Eventually, when they get used to a life with no rules, they do like learning and eating real food, too.  Autistic kids thrive with choice since they seem to have this innate knowledge of what it is they need…society just likes to get in the way and interrupt this little voice that tells them what to do.  Anyway, sure, kids ought to be able to choose what they do and when they do it.  It’s a good thing to have children and teens vote on what happens next, and have them direct their own learning.

I’m sure, deep down, Kozol also would agree in theory with Catholic education because of the good it can do, especially in urban areas.  It gets some kids out, and helps them move to the middle class.  When you think of individual children, homeschooling, choice schools and Catholic education and other options are always a wonderful thing.  He is not remotely a fan of it in practice, though (or possibly not even in theory; sometimes it’s hard to read his work for me because of this).

But he said something about free schools that has stuck with me for years.

He compared them to the commandant’s children playing in the sandbox near Auschwitz.

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Posted in Self-Care

Vocations and Friendship

Less than a month ago, a parishioner and I were walking in the sub-basement of the school during Fish Fry talking about the chaos in the room.  His wife came down and while he continued to look at it (he’s compared our storage spaces to Beirut, presumably during wartime, which isn’t necessarily an inaccurate description), we talked about school and life.  She called what I do my true vocation, which it kind of is: if I am doing anything outside the house, this was it.  I felt the most “right” and at peace with working here.  She and I are on the same page on a lot of issues, though she’s in my mom’s generation, though a little younger, so one could say we were verging on friendship.

Autistic friendships: all the older and younger people you want, but never people in the same generation (aargh).

I suspect it helps she has many Deaf siblings (a lot of Autistic culture owes much to the Deaf community; they started this whole idea of we do have a language and a culture and you all are the weird ones, which we in the Autism world appreciate so much).  She’s quirky, likely because of navigating the hearing and Deaf worlds, and because, like me, it sounds like she didn’t get involved with too much in the way of office politics and focused on her work more than average.

Also, like me she doesn’t do small talk and, like me, loves to talk politics and religion and really doesn’t care what the Kardashians are doing.  It limits her friendships with her neighbors.

Anyway, we went out to lunch yesterday, and it ended up being a five-hour experience, talking about all kinds of things.

A highlight of the conversation, of course, is what I should do next.

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Posted in Catholic leadership, School Leadership

Routine

Most everything to be done is on hold or being done by people higher up than I am.  The Diocese is working on spinning this.  My pastor is on a two-week vacation.  We can’t very well merge the kids right this exact moment, and so we wait.

My days are filled with throwing away things that should have been tossed eons ago and shredding.  A lot of shredding.  A lot of questions as to why this is even here for me to shred, and then I realize it; this was a very bad school.

My nights consist of trying to exit the building as close to 3 as possible, getting into my nightgown, and moving into bed, watching Survivor reruns while I game a little on a laptop or just stare mindlessly.

I sleep better than I have, but not enough.

When I can move forward, I have energy to keep going.  When I am stuck, waiting and worrying, I feel anger and frustration.  I feel abandoned, and useless.  I can’t use my Autistic powers to plan a solution because I must wait.

And in the meantime, we’re on the front page of the paper; below the fold, at least, but still.  With a half-true account concocted by the Diocese who is scrambling to figure out just what the heck my boss did before he left.  Whatever he did do, as I understand it, it was not exactly what he said he did, so we’re guessing a lot, and the story that they gave is wrong in several places, and I can’t correct it.

It doesn’t matter.

See, the thing is, to me, what’s happening right now is what was meant to be last year.  The school I inherited was a bad school, where gossip and malice and the other tools of the devil ran rampant.

We changed that.

But not fast enough.

Continue reading “Routine”