Other people do a terrible job of figuring out what I need, and how best to give it to me. They (neuro)typically have no sensitivity to anything other than themselves, and my spikey needs tend to be an annoyance for them, anyway. The neurotypical world is designed for… neurotypicals. That’s all they know. That’s all they care about.
Holding down a job, so they can continue to do the above three without interruption.
That’s basically it.
I had a conversation with a friend of mine, the other day, who was so nonchalant about that myopic bias, it was breathtaking. He’s an older white, upper-middle-class, professional gentleman with a PhD and tons of honors to his name from his 40-some year career. He’s nearing 70 years old, and I have tremendous respect for him and his experience. He’s been a good friend to me for nearly a decade. So, when he said that all of human endeavor is essentially structured around making sure your genes are propagated throughout the course of history, to the widest extent possible, and nothing else really matters to the human race, I didn’t correct him. I paused — partly out of respect, partly out of wonder at why someone would say such a thing.
But thinking back, it takes my breath away, just how convinced he was of his own rightness, how utterly blind he seemed to be about any particular bias. And the irony was, we were talking about people’s unconscious biases. Huh. How ’bout that.
That being said / experienced, I become all the more convinced that autistic / Aspie folks need to fend for ourselves. We can, you know. If we band together, we can – and we should. There are so, so many autistic adults who have figured out how to live successfully in the world, find work that suits us, establish loving, long-term relationships, raise families, and do more than get by in the world.
True, true, we have many issues of our own, and many of us have suffered terribly. But let’s not lose sight of the huge accomplishments we’ve attained, all the skills we’ve built, all the tips and tricks we’ve figured out. There seems to be a tendency in the autistic community to focus on our weaknesses and vulnerabilities and shortcomings — all our excruciating collective suffering — perhaps in hopes that others will feel some sympathy for us and change the systems in the world that seem specially designed to make our lives an obstacle course extraordinaire.
What do we lose when we do that, though? We lose our autonomy. We lose our self-definition. We hand over our fate to another person, who may or may not have the skills, awareness, or even the will, to do a damned thing for us. Even if they try, they often screw it up so badly, it’s worse than if they’d done nothing.
Now, I’ve got nothing against the government acting responsibly towards the whole of the population, or organizations figuring out how to better support us. They serve valuable purpose(s). But handing over our whole health and future to others… that’s never seemed like a particularly prudent thing to do.
And again, I come back to my argument about the critical importance of the Aspergers difference — the awareness and understanding that many of us on the Autism spectrum are fully capable of taking care of ourselves, even doing so with extraordinary capability that far exceeds the abilities of the neurotypical world outside our heads and our experience.
Those of us who have Figured Stuff Out have a great gift to pass along to others, who may be struggling with the exact same issues we ourselves have had — and mastered — in the past.
So, let’s do that, shall we? I mean, we already are. Here. In the blogosphere. Also on Twitter. Facebook, too (tho’ I’m seldom there, these days). And we have a lot to share with each other. We have a lot to offer, a lot to contribute. Many of us do, and even more should. There are so many ways we can support one another with real, true, honest information that comes from the best place possible — experience. Proven experience.
Yeah, I’m not holding my breath, waiting for autism organizations or the government to come to my rescue. I guess I’m waaaay too much of a rural-raised, defiantly self-sufficient American, to feel comfortable with the government “helping” me with much of anything. Yes to justice. Yes to civil rights (including voting rights). Yes to protecting the environment. Yes to the big things that government is better at handling than individuals. But in terms of providing support for those of us in special need? That, I feel, should come from within our own community.
And yes, even financial support — funding. It’s not like there are no autistic rich people. Autistic folks have a knack for specialization and perseverating — and if that isn’t a recipe for developing skills that really, truly help one amass considerable wealth, I don’t know what is.
Of course, there needs to be some sort of distribution system in place for all of this support. That’s where government comes in, I suppose. But aside from money, when we’re talking about basic information and access to moral support, that can be gotten from the online world. And in person. Finding autistic people in our vicinity and making the effort to reach out.
But really, the most potential for support is online. Because we can find each other here. And we can connect with each other on our terms, in ways that suit our schedule and energy levels. Isn’t that why we built out the Internet, to begin with? Back in the mid-1990s, there were so, so many of us online — seemed like we outnumbered the neurotypicals. And it was a hugely healing experience for me, to be with my tribe, to find my place, to be in the midst of others who “got” me and didn’t need constant explanations of what’s what… and who weren’t put off by my quirks.
I long for that experience, again… to find a workplace tribe that’s every bit as quirky as I am, that “gets” what works for me, and doesn’t force me to do what doesn’t. I want to be able to “geek out” with others who are so completely ON the spectrum, that we are the norm, rather than the exception.
And no, I don’t want to be a token unicorn “autistic hire” to assuage the guilt of corporate overlords. I seriously just want to meld with my tribe. To be with my kind. Because it’s possible. It’s very, very possible. I’ve done it before, and I need to do it again.
So, that being said, I’m diving into some new programming languages that will get me into the ranks of those who love to geek out over numbers, just like I do. Who are as sensitive as I am. Who are as keenly intent on teasing out the truth of matters, as I am, and who don’t take shortcuts and make excuses. And whose sole interest isn’t sowing their biological seeds far and wide, so they can prove to themselves that they’re not going to disappear into obscurity for ever and ever after they die.
I’m taking matters into my own hands, and gearing up to better integrate with those like me. In places where I can relax and just be myself, and allow my abstract mind to settle into what it does best — find patterns and solutions and make beautiful magic with them.
I’m also very much into sharing what I’ve learned, as I go, so that others can benefit from my experience. And looking back on my own experiences to analyze and deduce what I can do better the next time. It’s all a process, truly. And in the end, I need to look to myself, as well as to those like me, for the support and strength I need.
The neurotypical world is too caught up in its own self-destruction, to pay much attention to me. Perhaps its best that they don’t realize I’m here, anyway. I’m fine on my own, doing my impressions of a neurotypical person, just to get by. To keep under their radar, so I can get on with my own life – in peace. Peace and quiet, joy and beauty.
Far, far from their maddening crowdiness.