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Flappiness Is to “I Wish I Didn’t Have Aspergers”: #AutismPositivity2012

A few days ago, you or someone like you googled, “I Wish I Didn’t Have Aspergers”.  I have thought about you ever since.  Wondering what is happening in your life to cause you so much distress over something that is simply a part of who you are.  For I know there must be something, and it is obviously hard.  No, I don’t know your name.  I don’t know where you live.  I don’t know how the world has treated you.

But I have seen the pain in the eyes of my students on the spectrum.  As a teacher, I have witnessed the aftermath of your peers’ indifference, amusement at your social missteps, and even cruelty.  I have watched you try so hard to fit in to a world that doesn’t understand you any more than you struggle to understand them.

You try to make small talk, but it isn’t received as you intended.  You share your opinion in class, and are bewildered by their laughter.  Even some of the teachers and other adult staff sometimes seem annoyed.  There are all kinds of unwritten rules about what to say, what to do, how to look — and no matter how hard you try to get it right, you always seem to get it wrong.  The thing that people don’t seem to realize is that – inside – you are just a person who wants the same things everyone else does.  Friendship.  Respect.  Fun.  To share your interests and experiences with others.  Perhaps to meet someone special.

But right now I’m guessing you don’t have many of those things.  And you’re probably wondering if life is always going to be this hard.  If there will ever be a place you belong.  If you will ever be able to sit among a group of people without a running dialogue of worry, embarrassment, and checklists of those unspoken rules running through your head.

Clearly, you want to be “normal”.

Well, I just so happen to be someone you would consider “normal”.  (Whatever that is.  I’m here to tell you that I’ve known a lot of “normal” people.  Quite frankly, we’re all us strange – this mixed bag of humanity.)  But I make friends easily.  I understand those confusing social cues that seem to elude you.  And I have never lived in daily fear of being bullied and antagonized.  So, no, I have not lived your life, and I don’t know what it is like to be you.

But being what those in the autism world call neurotypical, I have made my own observations of the differences between people on the spectrum and people like myself.  One of the things autistic people are characterized by is having an affinity for detail.  Many of you notice so many things that neurotypicals never will.  It’s a really cool ability.  We NTs, on the other hand, aren’t as observant.  We tend to be blind to those who are different.  And, even when they are pointed out, many of us still fail to really see them.  A kind of emotional blindness, if you will.  And, it really is not intentional.  It’s just that it sometimes takes an extraordinary experience – such as parenting, loving, knowing, teaching, or working with someone on the spectrum for our eyes to be opened.  But without that experience, far too many of us remain blind to those right in front of them – their differences, what they share in common, what they need to navigate the world just a bit easier, and what they have to contribute to our world.

Yet some of us have had that extraordinary experience.  Some of us now have a new set of glasses with which to see the world.  As one who counts herself among them, I am so very grateful for that.

I’m so sorry that so many of us still have not had our eyes opened.  I’m sorry for the frustration and hurt that we have caused you – that would make you wish you were somebody other than who you are.  Yes, you do stand out.  But you know what?  So do some stars.  Some are just brighter, more colorful, and more interesting than all the other not-so-remarkable stars in the universe.  When I think of you, of others I have known like you — and my precious amazing boy, also autistic – I see stars.  And to me, and other NTs like me – whose vision has been strengthened – you are beautiful.

Right now, you may be looking around you and wondering where the heck we all are.  Are there people who will accept and appreciate you?  And are there others like you who have gone on to happy and fulfilling lives, having survived the very difficult years you are enduring right now?

The answer, I am so very pleased to tell you, is yes.  We are all over.  We are in this country and others.  We are in large cities and small towns.  We are universities and the workplace.  Churches and advocacy organizations.  And you may be too young to have an opportunity to break away from your small corner of the world to meet us all.  But we are here.  And we have our hearts, minds, and arms open and waiting for you.  As the saying goes, “It gets better.”  You just need to hang in a bit longer, learn as much as you can, and then step out into the world and begin bridging those connections.

In the meantime, you may be surprised to know that there is an entire online community and autism/Aspergers blogosphere already available to you.  Autistic/Aspie youth and adults, sympathetic NTs, and experts.  Websites, blogs, chat rooms, forums, support groups, Twitter, Facebook pages, and much more.  You would be surprised at the warmth, friendship, and understanding available right now — today — if you will just log on and seek it out.

For more messages of hope to you from the autism blogosphere, please visit the Autism Positivity Flash Blog.

It’s a big world out there.  And you haven’t even seen 1% of it.  There are happy and successful people just like you who are all too happy to tell you that there is a lot to look forward to in life.  Seek them out.  Connect to them.  Follow their advice.  And, hopefully, one day you will be in their shoes — proving to a young person just like yourself that there really is a place for him/her in the world.

For it is there — waiting for you to claim it.

If you would like to read more messages of hope from people in the autism community, please visit the Autism Positivity 2012 Flash Blog.

Are You Kidding Me?! Why Autism Positivity?

There’s been a lot of fussing and name calling in the ASD blogosphere of late.  It is centered not upon vaccines or biomedical treatment but on the call by some – including Thinking About Perspectives, a blogger group I am a member of – to bring a positive light to autism.  A lot of folks are embracing this view, but there are many who are frustrated, sad, and angry who are feeling alienated because their feelings don’t quite match up with all this positivity.And that makes me sad.  Because I hate the thought that people are out there, once again feeling like others are negating their own emotions.

Speaking for myself, I don’t think autism positivity is about denying the very real challenges being autistic or raising a child with autism presents.  If it were, then I’m afraid I would have to side with those who are against it.  The cold hard truth about autism is that each person affected by it is dealt a different set of cards.  And some of those cards are poor hands indeed.  What I mean by that is that life is certainly going to be easier for those who can communicate with others.  It is obviously going to be more pleasant for those whose sensory issues do not overtake them in a vicious assault every time they leave the house.  Of course it is preferable to be toilet trained than not, to be able to read than not, and to have the ability to make your own choices.  Yes, I want those things for my child.  I’d be crazy not to.  Yes, I am terrified he might not.  Because not having the freedom to direct your own life is a loss – and one I would have every right to grieve.  Without some sanctimonious autism cheerleader telling me how very happy I should be about it.

Which brings me back to my point.  Autism positivity is not a vast conspiracy to make everybody autistic.  It is not an attempt to discourage therapies that might improve the quality of lives affected by autism.  And it is not a movement to create guilt in parents who are struggling with very real issues related to the most severe cases of autism.

Yes, some of the hands dealt by autism have been tough.  But not all of them.  We call it a spectrum for a reason.  There are a very large number of people on that spectrum whose lives are fulfilling and happy.  People who have learned to navigate the neurotypical world.  Children, students, parents, spouses, coworkers, teachers, family, and community members.  People whose very unique perspectives and talents have contributed to our world.  And even some extraordinary minds who have helped to make it a better and more beautiful place – scientists, artists, engineers, and other great thinkers.

And here’s the thing. Those folks have to walk around hearing about epidemics, cures, gene therapy, social dysfunction, and disappointed parents.  They have to endure public discussions on their sexuality (or lack thereof) and answer personal questions on whether or not they understand the concept of love.  They know that perception of autism runs from people equating it with mental retardation to thinking it a “soft” condition that doesn’t even exist.  And the only people representing them on TV are geniuses or superheroes.  Given those roles from which to choose and identify with, can you blame them for wanting to present their own view of autism?  To want to shout from the rooftop that they are proud of who they are?  That they like themselves just fine?  That it is okay to find humor in their differences and to enjoy some of the perks of being autistic?  For there are perks.  And they have a right to like those perks.  They have a right to like themselves.  They have a right to not feel like a walking tragedy.   And they have a right to demand the world not treat them like one.

I joined the Autism Positivity 2012 Flash Blog Event because I want to send a message to the young people who are still fighting in the trenches of acceptance.  Those kids who get up every day and battle loud, smelly, crowded hallways just to get to classrooms filled with students and teachers who don’t understand their differences and don’t appreciate their contributions.  I have seen those tears throughout my years of teaching.  I have hid them in back rooms of the library to cool off tear-stained faces with cold cloths.  Kids whose peers, teachers, and even family don’t begin to understand how very brave and tough they have to be to function in what is a daily battlefield for them.  All while being told that there is something terribly wrong with them.

Yet I don’t even know if my child will be “high functioning” enough to even have this to look forward to.  I hope.  And, yes, I pray.  But his cards are still face down on the table.

No, I am not in denial.  I have seen severe autism.  It is still way too early to know what choices my son will have available to him.  But even if the dreams I have for him are not realized, I refuse to not take joy in what I have in him.  I refuse to not be amazed by the wonders of his mind.  I refuse to allow my own grief –which I confess to experiencing every day – to cast a shadow on his love for life and his pride in himself.  Every human being on the planet deserves to be celebrated and cherished – not matter what challenges they face.

For I know that the roots of his self-worth are reflected in my eyes.  Mine.  And, no matter what, I want him to like what he sees.

If you would like to participate in the #AutismPostivity2012 Flash Blog Event, please visit our page.  You don’t even have to be a blogger!  :)

To “I Wish I Didn’t Have Aspergers”: An #AutismPositivity2012 Flash Blog Event

A couple of weeks ago, someone somewhere googled “I Wish I Didn’t Have Aspergers”.  The phrase popped up in a blogging dashboard and struck the blogger as being particularly sad.  She wished she could have answered.

We don’t know who it was.  We don’t know where he/she lives.  We have no idea if he/she found what he/she was looking for in that search.

We do know that search directed that person to a blog.  We do know the searcher clicked on it in an attempt to find what they needed.  And we do know enough about the challenges of autism to know that person is likely not alone in that sentiment.

So, we got to thinking.  What would we say to that person?  What if it was a kid, desperately trying to make it through tough years of intolerance and ignorance?  What if it were a person who might never stumble across the amazing voices speaking for autism acceptance?  What if that person thought himself/herself all alone?  What would we say about the present?  What would we say about the future?  What would we say about happiness?  And hope?

Each of us in the autism community –- self-advocates, parent advocates, friends and family, teachers, health professionals—we would all have different messages for “I Wish I Didn’t Have Aspergers”.  But likely we would all try to send the message that there is a brighter future and that friendship and support are out there.

We are asking every blogger in the autism community to write a message of positivity to “I Wish I Didn’t Have Aspergers”.  So that next time that individual (or another) types that sad statement into Google, he or she will find what they need – support, wisdom, and messages of hope from those who understand.

And – for those of you who do not blog but wish to join in – please post your positivity message to http://autismpositivity.wordpress.com

Please join with us on the last day of Autism Awareness/Acceptance Month – April 30th – in a flash blog of autism positivity.

To participate:

  1. Publish your post on April 30th in the following title format:  “[Your Blog] to ‘I Wish I Didn’t Have Aspergers: #AutismPositivity2012”.
  2. Share your post on Twitter and Facebook, using that hashtag.
  3. Add your link to the Autism Positivity website and grab the badge:
  4. Share/reblog this message to your blog, page, etc.

This Autism Positivity Flash Blog Event is the brainchild of Thinking About Perspectives, a group of bloggers committed to increasing autism awareness and acceptance via open and respectful dialogue.  We are:  30 Days of Autism, Outrunning the Storm, The Third Glance, Aspie Kid, Flappiness Is, Quirky and Laughing, Life on the Spectrum, Fairy Tale Forgotten, The Aspie Side of Life, and Inner Aspie.