I was recently asked to contribute a blog for an event challenging that oh-so-ableist and damaging group of people who call themselves Autism speaks (or as some have rebranded them, Autism $peaks). A little background…. Autism speaks starts from the premise that Autism is a ‘tragedy’. They promote ‘cures’ and basically serve to negate pretty much everything advocates like myself and so many others do to promote the value and humanity of Autistic folks. Autism speaks stands at odds with most of the things I believe in about advocacy and respect. Unfortunately Autism speaks has a broad following and supporter base, particularly in the USA. The whole ‘light it up blue’ business was initiated by Autism speaks and yet most people who aren’t in the Autism world think that the blue thing is a positive. (I will not be wearing blue on 2 April, rather I shall wear multicolours. If there’s blue in amongst them, I apologise.)
Anyway, back to the blog…I was asked to write a piece for an organisation doing a ‘flash blog’ on April 2nd to challenge the ‘tragedy/cure people’ negativity emanating from the offices of Autism speaks (and I’ve put a link in this post if you want to join in). This article is what I will be providing. It is simply description of my day as a human being who happens to be Autistic.
A day in March, somewhere in Canberra….
I woke up at 4 am and checked my Facebook – a bit of an occupational hazard for an Autism advocate in the modern era. Somebody had misunderstood one of my posts and had decided to give me a (very short) lecture on my ‘Jeanette;s Autism Books and Other Things’ Facebook page. I dashed off a rather bleary response and failed miserably to get back to sleep…until about 6am. Then I woke up with the alarm clanging at me and Mr Kitty standing in the vicinity of my nose and saying ‘MEOW!!!’. I fed the furry boy and took my morning medication. I realised it was 7:55. I am usually safely in my office by such an hour, with life-sustaining coffee. I ran around madly and eventually was showered, suited and fed. I got to work after my supervisor, made a cup of coffee and sat down to my job as a risk management specialist for a Government department.
It seemed to be the day for people to request odd things from me, from the academic in Western Australia I had never met or heard of wanting a letter of recommendation for her research, to the CEO of an organisation wanting to attend a talk I am giving in April and do some promotional activities. I grumbled to my colleagues about al these impositions but I didn’t really mind too much.
Work kept me occupied – there is a lot to do. I have a big spreadsheet to maintain! Seriously though, I love my spreadsheets. I liaised with everyone I needed to and by lunchtime was feeling accomplished. As I ate my beef and salad sandwich from the work cafe and lamented the overuse of seeded mustard, I saw an email from the organiser of the Autism MOOC course set to start in April which has some videos by me (an ‘expert’ apparently. Though I suspect all people on the Autism spectrum and those that love us are in fact experts. I’m just a loud Alpha personality type who gives TEdx talks and writes books and promotes myself. I’m probably no more an expert than anyone else.) The MOOC person and I exchanged a couple of emails and then I had a call from a PhD candidate I had offered to talk to about her research into post school options. What a lovely lunch break I had, speaking to this person. I returned to work energised from our exchange and made phone calls and read things – you know, all those essential elements of public servanting…
A friend rang at 4 pm. I left work at 5:30 and caught the bus. I’d forgot my Tangle fidget toy and cursed – humanity en masse in public transportation settings always warrant headphones and music and a good play with something sensorily soothing, but what could I do? It could have been worse – at least nobody got too close physically.
I bought groceries, thinking about reverse prejudice for some reason. I got the groceries home and found a little furry fellow waiting for me. Cuddles and purrs ensued. I made my dinner – the same recipe I’ve eaten pretty much every night since 2013 (It is healthy and involves many vegetables, mum :)). I watched some of the nice things on the Antiques Roadshow and then turned on Alastair the MacBook Air and here I am writing this post.
That has been my day so far. Is that day all that different from others’ days? Am I ‘broken?’ Ifs my life ‘Tragic’? Do I need a cure? No on all counts. I am a forty-something woman. The first twenty five years of my life were hard, the last fifteen were instructional. I have friends, family, work colleagues and a cat. I do not feel that my life is less valid than anybody else’s. Who would make such a pronouncement? I know I couldn’t. I can’t judge one person’s experience over another’s. I personally love my life most of the time. It can be hard but being human can be hard, whether you are Autistic or not. Autistic people are valuable, worthy, sensitive, intelligent, interesting, good friends, good partners (and not so good for that matter). We are humans with all the range of human qualities, foibles, interests, genders, sexual preferences, values, beliefs and quirks. We are not children in adult bodies. We are not nature sprites, ‘brave’ and our experiences and lives should not be used as ‘inspiration porn’. And don’t get me started on puzzle pieces. I think I should probably stop now…. I really hope this helps.
Here’s that link to the ‘flash blog’: http://idontneedacure.blogspot.com.au