It’s said that every cloud has a silver lining. Just last year, at an aspie gathering, we were talking about how we on the spectrum have been slow in building a really solid ‘neurodiversity’ movement similar to the feminist, gay and black liberation movements. This is because our very nature – individualistic, eccentric, lacking in social networking skills, executive functioning skills and sometimes even social inclinations – means such a ‘social’ movement has been hard to get going properly. Not to mention the fact that simply surviving in an NT world is struggle enough for many of us without being politically active as well. (I do respect the neurodiversity activists everywhere, who have done their best to create such a movement. It’s simply that most aspies/auties are not in touch with this, or able to participate, for all the reasons I’ve said.) I remember remarking that we needed some kind of a ‘cause célèbre’, to bring us together, fire us up, the way that the gay liberation movement for instance was started by the Stonewall Riot in the late 60s, and further fueled by the murder of Harvey Milk.
Well, now we’ve had one. This doesn’t mean for one moment that I would have wished on Arie and Michael, or anyone else, the troubles they’ve had. I simply meant that lacking such a case, we would remain largely fragmented and isolated. Arie’s case has brought Kiwi aspies and their NT friends and supporters together in ways nothing else has before, organised and galvanised spectrumites like never before.
Let’s not let this impetus subside again. Let’s use it to, for instance, get some real training for police and other emergency staff, as to how to recognise and best deal with those on the spectrum. Let’s use the contacts forged with the media, to take the next steps forward in bringing our issues before the public eye, and in increasing understanding of those on the spectrum – and perhaps finally ending at least the worst aspects of our long, lonely, marginalised and invisible existence.
Let’s start writing – more blogs, magazine and online articles, plays, books, TV and film scripts, etc, etc, etc, and populate them with realistic, fully-rounded (for once) autistic characters. Let’s paint and sculpt and create music, and do whatever else we want, in ways that express our autistic reality. Let’s stop being ashamed of and hiding our real selves, and let them out, in all their stumbling, rambling, quirky, eccentric, but magnificently unique glory.
And let’s start insisting to government departments and the like, that they change what my friend John Greally of Aspergers Syndrome New Zealand calls their “old deeply flawed premise that ASD is something to fix/therapise/eliminate/exterminate”, and instead insist on policies that can offer real help. Let’s transform the question, as he puts it, from "what are we [NTs] going to do about ‘their’ behaviour" (ie fix the broken) to "how can we appreciate them more for being who they are" (love the gift)”. Let’s get out there and create some real, and long overdue change.
And let’s see the light bulb, not the puzzle piece, become our symbol. Let us ensure a light bulb of awareness goes on for everyone.