It’s Autism Awareness week. It does feel like it should be Autism Awareness Week every week, every year until we finally start to make some real progress. Let’s not kid ourselves as we have are only just starting down that road.

This years theme is centred around inequalities. Inequalities that have become even more stark and exposed during the pandemic.

I tell you what is unequal. Bridge building. It’s always up to the autistic person to try and build those bridges. Our society, our institutions and too many of our communities are not interested. They see Autism through inaccurate stereotypes. Something to be ignored or brushed under the carpet. We’ve all experienced that approach. Individuality is frowned upon. People need to be forced into set moulds and templates.

Yesterday I was listening to the words of a really wonderful, unique and brilliant teenager. He was talking about his struggle with autism. His daily fight with inequalities and ignorance. Why was it so hard for people to understand. He was saying that every day he heard so many false stereotypes. But in fact he had a sense of humour, he liked having fun, he liked having friends, he had feelings, he cared. He was as valid as an individual as anyone else.

That lad wasn’t different he was UNIQUE. We all should be. It’s a better world for that.

We all should be welcomed and supported.

73 thoughts on “Autism

  1. When I have the Memorial service summer/autumn depending on lockdown, I will ask for family in England to give to autism, and over here Hospice as they helpful me so much the last week of his life ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  2. That’s right. People are made interesting by their unique qualities and I would find it fascinating to hear how someone sees the world, whose perspective is different. We all know that there is so much more going on than we are aware of, so different views should be treasured.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Yes! You have spoken my heart on this matter, my friend! Thank you! My family is neither broken nor defective but uniquely made by our Creator to see the world OUR way! We don’t need ‘fixed’ but rather understood!

    Liked by 4 people

  4. I spent many years as a support worker for persons with _________________ abilities/disabilities (fill in the blank with whatever word you want or is current in your area!). The one word I came to use about society’s views on the persons I worked with was ignorance in all its many ramifications. Not only were people ignorant–treating my clients mean–but they were ignorant–not wanting to learn anything about the various ways people are different from them–and ignorant–believing that they should be kept out of public view.
    One of the missions of my job was public education, but for the most part the public did not want to be educated. One thing of note, on average, the older the public the more resistance I met. The good thing, the younger the public, again on average, the more they wanted to learn.
    Yes, there were good caring people, and I do not want to sound like there weren’t, but the definite majority were just ignorant. I don’t know how many times I was told my clients should be locked away somewhere, and left to rot.
    That is what I thought should be done to them!

    Liked by 4 people

      1. I think this is one of those situations where we’re never going to “fix” things individual by individual. There needs to be a societal shift. The first step is we need to stop pathologising autism. It’s not a disease nor a disorder. It’s a difference.

        A mere 50 years ago, homsexuality was still classified as a disorder by the medical profession, and it’s less than 40 years since homosexual acts were decriminalised in this country. That’s about the same time as autistics who disabled by a neurotypical society were no longer being institutionalised by default.

        I have decided never to use “diagnosis” when referring to discovering that I was on the autism spectrum. I not refer to autism as a “disorder” and use “difference” instead.

        Many neurodivergent people are disabled, but for the most part the disablement is imposed by society and in a purely neurodivergent world would be faced with fewer barriers to living life to the full.

        The problem with “autism awareness” is that most people are aware of autism – they fail to comprehend what it is or refuse to accept autistic behaviour as acceptable. The organisation “Autism Speaks” is a prime example. It “promotes” autism in a very negative light. We should be concentrating on “autism comprehension” and “autism acceptance” instead. Rant over.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Good rant. I just don’t see changing society without the people who make up society changing themselves. I am not trying to argue, just stating my understanding of how society works.
        For what it is worth, a huge part of society still thinks homosexuality is a fixable disease. Especially when their sons and daughters come out as being differently-gendered.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. I have so much more to learn and I am so grateful to you for your stories about Hawklad and all the joys and struggles you both live with. Look, we are all unique and I love how you intimate differences should be celebrated. We have nephews on both sides of the family who are autistic. I wish there was more education for families. Often the parents themselves are woefully lacking in awareness around autism and its many facets and spectrum. I was visiting with my nephew a couple of years ago, his son is autistic. I had asked them a few questions about their son. Questions they were unable to answer. It wasn’t like they were particularly difficult queries. It is only because of some of the things I learned from you that I was cognizant of C’s challenges and sensitive to them. He just turned seven. He is the second of four children. He’s a delightful child and I love him. It hurts me to think of all the stereotypes and bigotry he will be exposed to in his life. Unfortunately we live far away so I will not be there to watch him grow or to offer my support to his parents and grandparents. I wish. Society definitely needs fixing! But because of social media, the internet, etc. people are at least being made more aware. That was something that was impossible a couple of decades ago. It’s a small silver lining.

    Thanks so much for this.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. And that is what society needs to understand, eventually: Uniqueness. Where is the measure of what is normal and what is not, what is healthy and what is not. Why cannot be everyone be taken the way they are? Male, female, hetero, gay, healthy, disabled, white, colored, … What we need to learn is to give everyone in this world their room to develop and unfold!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I don’t know whether you are religious or not, and I mean no negativity, but especially Christianity celebrates sameness. Everyone worshipping Jesus, heterosexual relationships, men being the dominant partner, none of this allows for uniqueness or otherness. Especially in European/English-based nations, where Christianity is dominant, society needs to go through a sea change. Christ himself may have accepted individuality, but the religion itself does not. Condemning those who do fit the mold into Hell makes everyone want their children to fit that mold. Children are robbed of their individuality, especially those who are considered to be born different. Quit condemning, accept uniqueness however and wherever you find it. Not just in this area of life, but in all areas. Rigidity is non-progressive.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. A large section of Christianity does not mean all christianity. Please don’t define any group by the worst of their members. The fact that there’s tens of thousands of denominations, of which a relative handful condemn those of other faith traditions (both Christian and non-Christian) would surely indicate that your assumption that is not entirely correct.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ah, Barry, you are reading too much into what I am saying. Nothing is ever total when it comes to labeled groups. But Christianity is a huge group, and even if only 35% of them don’t accept differently labeled people, we are still talking numbers in the billions, or hundreds of millions at the least. Divide it into the 43,000 denominations currently proposed by internet sources as being under the Christian umbrella, that still leaves about 15,000 denominations opposed to uniqueness in individuals. It is hard to even conceive of those kinds of numbers. Many societies are made of considerably smaller populations or social/religious groups.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I admit I’m pedantic when it comes to generalisations. I guess I was educated too well on the dangers of generalisations when I was I child. I was taught to use generalisations as though you were referring to something the receiver knew nothing about and therefore only use generalisations where you were sure it applied to all members of the group. I tend to use words such as “many”, “most” and “some” to indicate that my comment may not necessarily apply to every member of the group.

        And perhaps it’s an autistic trait to interpret generalisations as being representative of all within the group unless there is some other indicator to say otherwise.

        Perhaps too because I’m a member of a faith group where a minority of one is just as important and equal to everyone minus the one.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Colloquialisms are in a different category. Yes, they can be confusing, but once understood do make kind of sense (sometimes).

        I was put in the naughty corner within the first week of attending school when I did exactly what the teacher told me to do. Apparently I didn’t move to my desk fast enough and she told me to jump to it. So i did. The class thought it was funny but the teacher was not amused.

        I later learnt to use my literal understanding of colloquialisms as a form or humour, partly as a means of self protection. You’re less likely to be at the receiving end of bullying if you are perceived to be witty.

        Still today the first impression that comes to mind is the literal meaning of colloquialisms before I dredge my memory banks for the intended meaning. For example we use the expression “boil the jug for a cuppu” to refer to boiling water in an electric jug (kettle) in preparation for tea or coffee. To me the phrase “boil the jug” has the same connotation as “boil the potatoes” or “boil the rice”, so the first thing that comes to mind is a big saucepan filled with boiling water in which the electric jug is immersed. I’ve heard that expression several times a day for 70 years, but still the intended meaning is not the first thought to cross my mind.

        And of course when the wife first arrived in NZ, she was totally bamboozled by the frequent use of colloquialisms, none of which were familiar to her. Colloquialisms are possibly as common in Japan, but she doesn’t think so. She’s been living in NZ for almost 50 years, and she can still be caught out occasionally. She could probably write a book about the many occasions that have resulted in embarrassment for her or the other party..

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Yes, the English language is filled with word traps, far beyond those involved in colloquialisms. Luckily in Canada we do not boil a jug, we merely put the water on which could present a completely different set of interpretations to someone with English as a Second Language, or, as you say, someone who hears literal meanings.
        Meanwhile, being of an extremely similar age, 71, I am surprised if you were labeled autistic as a young child or youth. That label did not hit Canada until the 70s, or maybe the early 80s. My first encounter with autism was when a woman I worked with in a warehouse had her daughter suddenly diagnosed (I hope you will pardon the expression but this is how it happened here) as being autistic. The child had appeared completely normal till about 14 months of age when it suddenly started banging it’s head on walls to the point of causing bruises. At first she and her husband were being investigated for child abuse, but authorities quickly learned the baby was doing this to herself. That was my introduction to autism, and it was not a pretty one. The woman had to soon quit working, as her daughter grew even worse tendencies. Day care agencies could not cope, nor did she wish them to try. She was the child’s mother after all. I lost all touch with the family after that. It was years before I even heard the word autism again. And it wasn’t until I became a support worker in the 90s that I started to learn more about it.
        As for English, I still have my moments. Especially when reading what some others have written, the meaning I get by reading literally is not always the meaning intended by the writer. Without body language, without tone or inflextion, without certain visual cues, it is so hard to understand what I should be reading. So, Barry, I apologize for using generalizations in my writing. Mostly I am writing off the cuff, not paying attention to how else words can be interpreted. I write what can only be called according to my culture, but especially on a blog like Gary’s, which is inherently cross-culture already, trying to cope with a version of Spelchek which changes so many words without my noticing, proofreading is an absolute necessity, and I have to remember I am not just speaking with one English language culture, not just two, but many. The Internet allows us to communicate with people all over the world, which I love. But it also condemns us to failing to communicate when we are not using formal language. And even then, we cannot control the culture of our readers, who may have other ways to read even formally. Again, my apologies.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I wasn’t given the autistic label until I was sixty years old, when I was having counselling for pain management and for some other emotional issues. It’s in hindsight that we now know understand I have always been autistic, and been disadvantaged by a very high level of prosopagnosia (face blindness) and alexithymia (emotional blindness).

        No need for apologies. One of the advantages of living in a small nation at the ends of the earth is the opportunity to observe other nations. I think one of the issues larger more dominant nations face (and the USA is a good example) is similar to what dominant cultures within a nation face – the inability see other perspectives. The larger the dominant group and the smaller the less dominant groups, the worse the situation becomes. I don’t think this is the fault of individuals so much as it is human nature. After all we evolved as social animals with group size maximising out at less than 200 individuals. Sometimes it amazes me that nations don’t self destruct more frequently and I wonder if that’s what we might be witnessing in the USA

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Yeah, I know about the inability to see others. Being half First Nations in Canada, even though I pretty much look white, is to virtually not exist, or to exist as a rug to be walked upon.

        Liked by 2 people

      8. You are speading from my heart. That’s why I always say, religion was not invented by God but by men. I believe in God, the universe, a higher power or intelligence (or however you may call it), as the creator of everything. I believe that everything was created from and with love. So, nothing that’s created can be wrong. Everything and everyone (in exactly the way they are created) forward a message. Everyone in the way they are created have their own unique path to fulfill their development. And at the same time, they affect and inspire others in their development. That’s why all is well because it supports the collective progresses. Our free will is in the way on one hand but on the other hand it leads to that insight that everything together makes one whole perfection – one single person cannot be that perfection.
        Sorry, for that long reply but you so hit the nail on the head.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Except that I am an atheist and see no creator anywhere. However, I am glad you got so much out of a comment I made. We each have the right to believe as we do. There is no reason we cannot get along.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. You’re so right. We should all be welcomed and supported. I’ve learned so much about autism from reading your blog. Unique is definitely a more appropriate word than different. Keep sharing and being super, Gary. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  8. You’ve said it so much better than I ever could!!
    Ben has taught me SOOO much, just by trying to see things the way he does.
    He’s NOT broken or lacking in any way, nor is he some kind of savant with a “superpower”🤦🏼‍♀️… he’s a 12year old kid, who has red hair, loves Hello Kitty, chalk, and is autistic.

    They, and we, build the majority of the bridge, and some people won’t even step onto it.


    Liked by 1 person

  9. As an autistic adult who very much does not fit the stereotypes (a lot of this has to do with being an autistic woman though, as the stereotypes are often based on autistic boys) this post made me extremely happy. Thank you!


  10. Hey Garry. I found some old posts. So I shall read them now. I agree, so much inequality, its so unfair, its the same with blindness, I find that society for the most part wants to lump us all together, no room for people to be individual or unique, all blind people arent the same, and the same goes for autistic people. xXx


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