Monday, November 1, 2010

The Aftermath

Autistics Speaking Day went really well. A big thank-you to all who contributed, and an especially big thank you to K. Bjornstad and C.L Becker for organizing the event. Reading all of those amazing, elaborate, well-thought out posts made me feel ashamed of my tiny two-paragraph hack-job, but I have to admit that I was running on empty and extremely stressed out today, so I did my best and I'm still pleased with the results.
The beautiful thing about this is that the original reason ASD (If you're anything like me, you found that hilarious!) was brought about was an idea of people removing themselves from the internet. The idea was to get a feeling for what it is like to be autistic, by being cut off from communication, particularly on facebook.
I have to admit, the first thing that went through my head was, "Well, that will confirm the rumours of Einstein and Newton being autistic, considering that they didn't have internet back in their days!"
In fact, if you apply the logic of logging off of facebook and the web for one day to be equivalent to living with autism, then it's fair to say that apart from the past 20 years, the entire population of human beings have always been autistic! Breakthrough!
Tongue out of my cheek, I can still say that the whole idea stank of disablism and ridiculous disability simulations. I was reminded of one particularly harebrained idea which involved able-bodied individuals using wheelchairs to get around for a day, so they could experience what it is like to deal with wheelchair inaccessible locales. Although that one was considerably more insulting, this one irritated me equally, because not only was it disablist, it was lazy. It's ironic to me that it was most reminiscent of facebook-related "activist" events, such as the bra colour campaign and the new "purse location" one for 2010, or the "X% of people will not repost this" facebook status updates. Whether on or off facebook, it was the same type of armchair activism that I have grown to despise more and more, as I progress through my twenties and see it becoming more and more commonplace.
It does not make you understand what it is like to be autistic if you go without facebook for a day. Nor does posting a colour in your status update save a woman's life or prevent a mastectomy. A click on a petition or a text message is not worthy of recognition as a selfless act.
But do you want to know what would be truly revolutionary and make a genuine difference? It's not as easy as logging off the internet for the day, and it takes conscious awareness on your part: Accept a person with autism for who they are. Do not think of them as savants whose value is worth only what they can give back in recitations of Pi or recognition of difficult patterns. Do not pity us into a corner, and do not place us on a pedestal and expect us to lead examples of virtuous lives.
Treating someone like a human being should not be considered such a radical act, but it is. In the world of blogging, this event may very well be passé within the next hour. But today, while some took the day off facebook, others poured their hearts and minds out. They can give you an idea about what it's like to be autistic. Give them the benefit of a read.


  1. Lovely post. :-) Acceptance of others for who they are as they are is what it's all about. Hah, it ought to be our prime directive.

  2. I was trying to find out about developmental disabilities, and kept going to these websites and explained them. And this was all very well and good, except I was reading about them from the outsider's point of view--from someone who had "researched" them, not from someone who had them.

    I've also come to realize that words like "developmental," "mental," "cognitive," "neurological," and "psychiatric" sort of overlap when describing any disability that's considered "non-physical" (although not always invisible). I finally said "To hell with it" and decided that I'd eventually find information on different disabilities through the feminist blogs I regularly read. This turned out to be much better than reading Wikipedia and CDC pages.

    I'm glad I have the Internet, because I'm kind of withdrawn and know better than to ask people, "What's it like having _____?" I wish more people would stop turning to the "experts" and "activism" and just shut up and LISTEN.

    By the way, I've started a blog about living with OCD. I'd like to create a blog roll of other blogs by people with disabilities. Would it be all right if I linked to yours?

  3. Please, go ahead and link me, Ocdaydreamer. I look forward to reading your stuff.