Awareness. Education. Acceptance. Inclusion.

We are in the midst of World Autism Awareness Week. The week ends on World Autism Awareness Day, which is the second day of World Autism Awareness Month. Needless to say, we’ve got a lot of awareness going on. But I tell you, awareness is not enough. There needs to be a model that starts with awareness, continues with education, followed by acceptance, and ending up in inclusion.

Awareness

Awareness is a great thing. That means you know something exists. It doesn’t make you engaged in anything. It doesn’t make you a better person. There are a lot of people that are aware of things that do nothing with that awareness. You get an average person that ignores it all together. Then you get a celebrity that will throw money at it and put on a good face in public. We must go past awareness.

Education

Education is a huge component in this model. Many people will shun an autistic person because they are not the same. This is called xenophobia. It is common for xenophobia to arise out of lack of knowledge. You don’t know about this person that is different than you, so you want nothing to do with them. We must educate people about what it means to be autistic. We must be willing to try and educate without antagonizing. People will learn at their own pace. People will learn if they choose to. You cannot control this outcome, you can only provide the information for them to use.

Acceptance

This is the next big step after education. Once someone understands you as an autistic individual, then they have the capacity to begin to accept you for who you are. I have various people in my life who are at different levels of acceptance. All I can do is stay consistent in my message and be patient.

Inclusion

A natural growth from acceptance is inclusion. Once people can understand you and accept you, they are often more willing to include you in things. They are willing to make adjustments for you. However, don’t stop the education process. I like to give the example that how an autistic brain thinks versus a non-autistic brain is like two different languages. You may be able to learn the language, but you will not always understand it.


(As a point of order, this model is a good one to follow for all different groups of people. Give people an opportunity to know you and understand you.)

I Don’t Care

Three little words.

“I don’t care!”

The combination of these words are connotative of the ideas of insolence and insubordination. This statement belongs to rebels and ne’re-do-wells. This is a sentence that has NO PLACE IN SOCIETY!

Let me debunk that. Casting stones at people that make this statement, or statements like it, is just a sign of attempts to be controlling. Control is necessary in some instances. If you’re trying to instill discipline in a child so that way they have some needed structure, or if you’re in charge of a military unit that must operate of one mind otherwise the risk injury and death, control is necessary. Where it is not necessary is in modern society where a plebiscite rich in creativity, curiosity, and independent thought. These are things that are championed as valued traits. Yet, when we shut down “I don’t care,” we lock those traits up.

“So how does this apply here? Do you ever say I don’t care about something?”

I like making sure I’m doing my part to make sure my family is taken care of. That is one thing I will hold sacred. Otherwise, I’m starting to make myself say these three words almost as a mantra.

“I don’t care!”

Yes, I am off and quirky. My thoughts may not match yours or anyone else’s. But, I get the job done.

“I don’t care!”

Your perfume or cologne is overpowering. I don’t have to sit there and endure it. It doesn’t offend me, but it does physically distract me. Sometimes it even hurts me.

“I don’t care!”

Yes, I always do it this way. If you would like to see me do it a different way, please show me what you have in mind and be willing to have a conversation about which way is better.

“I don’t care!”

I understand you have feelings, and I will do my best not to hurt them. Conversely, please understand that my questions and statements will rarely have feelings or intent attached to them.

When it gets down to it, I am happy to help educate you about working with and interacting with autistic people. It’s not all the same, but many of the basics line up. I’m not the only autistic person out there. There are lots of them. But I do not care to pretend to be something I am not. I try harder than most people do every day just to try and seem “normal”. That’s not even adding on top of the situation everything else that I need to do during a day.

I don’t care about social conventions. I do care about being genuinely social. I don’t care about what you think should happen. I do care about educating you what can happen.

I’m autistic. So are a lot of other people.

I don’t care! Neither should you!

Just Make It Stop

We’ve all been somewhere we didn’t want to be. We’ve all been in situations we didn’t want to be in. In life, we have to ride certain situations out. But can I share a secret with you?

Even though I find ways to appear ok in times like that, I’m not. In times like that, my greatest strength becomes my biggest weakness. I am always analyzing possibilities. What can I do here? What can I do there? What can I get away with on this? Can I squeeze by on that?

When I run out of feasible options on something, I start doing this to other things. My brain analyzes and assesses things. Sometimes, it creates a vortex that I feel like I am getting sucked in to with no control.

I want it to stop. I can’t make it stop. It won’t stop. I present well to others. But I get both physically and mentally tired more quickly