Autism to me means I’m thinking about things a little differently. Where people might see one obvious answer to a problem, I’m seeing a completely different one, or several. My Asperger’s gives me an innate curiosity and fascination with the world around me. I love birds, for example. I just like watching them. I want to study everything about them and their noisy, mindless ways. I digress, but Autism means a lot of things to me. The simplest, blanketed way to put it would be that it allows some people to be a little different. Not only in how they appear, but in how they act, think and interact with their environment. Autism is an untapped source of great potential. But for me, it means I can wear all the animal hats and sassy T-shirts I like, without ever questioning it.
I have many obscure strengths. Sometimes I question in what situation they’ll come in handy, but they still make me pretty happy that I have them. High order reasoning is one, meaning that I can relate anything to anything – everything has commonalities no matter how far-fetched. Deep thinking is easy for me, sometimes I’ll come up with an idea and friends will say things like, ‘Wow, you’ve really thought about this!’, but really I had only just thought about it in the previous few seconds. Passing thoughts are sometimes complex thoughts. Another big strength of mine is my imagination. My dreams and thoughts are always vivid. I’ve created whole worlds, concepts, creatures, and even a planet once in my head, which were subsequently and hastily spooled onto paper to be stored as inspiration for later use. Funnily enough, hand in hand with this imagination comes an eloquence in writing. I’ve always been able to express myself better through writing than through talking. Outwardly, I can appear bumbling and to always forget words when I need them, but I can write you a killer essay or prose any day of the week. I like to channel my imaginative side into creative writing, it’s always been a hobby that puts me into a kind of zen state. One day I hope to write and publish some novels.
For a long time I wasn’t particularly aware of the negative stigma placed on Autism. Maybe somewhere, subconsciously, I was. Maybe that was what made me shy about telling people about my Asperger’s. But when I eventually did learn and these expectations bubbled to the surface, I simply failed to let them affect me. I don’t really care about what others think about Autism. But if such thoughts do happen to get in the way of some relationship I have with a person, I will attempt to educate them (in failing that then they probably weren’t worth the trouble). This frame of mind is probably possible for me as I was only diagnosed as ‘on the Spectrum’ in my teens. Autism wasn’t part of my identity before then, and I sure as hell am not going to let societal stereotypes around Autism dominate my identity now. Yes I am on the Autism Spectrum, but before that I am a person.
It’s too easy to get caught up in the negative aspects of being on the Autism Spectrum. Nobody knows this better than people on the Spectrum, and we don’t need to hear it from the likes of anyone else thank you very much. It’s easy to do though, when the first thing society sees in us is a collection of differences. It can often be a harder task to talk about all the good that comes from Autism, rather than the deficits. People on the Spectrum don’t want to be discriminated against as much as the next person. By lifting the negative talk we come to associate with Autism, we could eliminate a whole lot of disadvantages faced by the Autistic community that are simply borne of all the common stigma associated with Autism.
The I CAN Network is beginning to change the common negative perceptions associated with Autism. We want to expose the great and varied truth behind the Autism Spectrum, in that it is not a strange and magical disorder that makes people spontaneously good with machinery and not much else, but just another branch of neurodiversity. We want Autism to be recognised for its unique strengths rather than its faults. We don’t want someone to lose a prospective job because they have to tell their potential employer about their diagnosis. We don’t want people to respond with a ‘sorry’ when we tell them about our Autism, when they should be saying ‘neato’. Embracing Autism could bring a world of benefits to our society, as we engage everybody’s unique perceptions and skills in a positive, constructive way.
A world that embraces Autism looks like a more progressive society that has made greater jumps in technology, philosophy and possibly even politics than we currently have. If we accommodate and allow people on the Spectrum to thrive, they will make great contributions to society in all kinds of fields.