Wednesday, October 29, 2014

17th Sep 2014 - Are autistic people really an authority on autism?

This train of thought dawned on me when I once again mentally toyed with the idea of explaining what Autism really is. As it stands, the only working explanations are cold and hard definitions. But we'd be fools to think that this gives a correct representation of the emotional experience (and hardship) that lies within.

I've come to the conclusion that even a man like me, who spends hours every day pondering upon the truths of the world we live in, can't even come to a solid representative conclusion that perfectly embodies and visualizes this handicap. A handicap that I, myself, am suffering from.

Truly I, being a man who has his way with words AND suffers the condition first hand, must be the most well equipped person to perfectly convey this perspective?
Actually, no. Not really. Not at all, in fact.

You see, all I can really explain is how life as an autistic person has been like for ME. Especially in manners of my limitations and the direct consequence of my handicap where my disabilities stem from. I can not explain to you how my autism is like. I can only explain you how my concentration issues, which is the specific handicap I suffer (not in the ADD trend. Completely different, in fact. Ill address that later), has affected me and continues to do so.

There is but one smaller, but still equally important part where pooled knowledge may return similar results for some. And that is how the 'outside world' views and treats us.

We've slowly crawled past the phase in society (some may argue we are still in with our legs and feet) where misunderstanding has lead to us physically and mentally suffer for it.
If I were to name these Milestones, the one we'd be in now would be where society is treating us as a strange creature that "we" do not understand. We are afraid to interact, fearing we would do something wrong and cause harm. I understand that this disposition, deep down, is based on good intent.

Is it the right thing to do though? Ah... I want to say no, but I don't want to come across as though there has been no progress and people are doing more harm than they did if they would just abuse us. That is not true. Caution and respect is always good, but sometimes treating us as strange creatures means that we are not treated as what we all are: Human beings.

I am not going to pretend that I have the solutions for these problems. Maybe my vision on these problems is skewed, inappropriate or just wrong. But hey, I'm just a guy writing this shit. Not some big time authority.

Another, more unified experience is the road to a professional career. There are some people who have gotten really shafted by their handicap, that they are incapable of pursuing their dream because of this. My heart is with them, and I hope they find something else in life that makes them feel accomplished or fulfilled.

But for a lot of Autistic people who, like me, experience almost no physical limitations and no mental limitation in the branches that only require my strengths, there is another problem.
Just to paint a picture, people like me are actually capable of pursuing a fulfilling career in the branch that they desire. They have the skills required and their handicaps are not a factor.

For example, my concentration handicap means that I can not filter sounds (not even in conversation) meaning that everything audible is being processed by my brain. Coincidentally, I have a widened field of view because my brain never learned that certain extents of my viewing angle are not that useful. Meaning that I see a lot more but, again, and processing more in a day. This often causes mental exhaustion at the end of the day.

But my expertise lies in IT, computers and stuff. I wear headphones where all the sounds contextually make sense and only play when important for me. At the same time, being able to concentrate on one screen instead of a moving world around me means that I can better focus. In short, I may be a very capable IT employee.

But when you wear the stamp as an Autistic person, the companies will always have a preconception. And don't try and hide that you are autistic, because over here, that's a possible grounds of being fired. Especially because the first three years that a company hires an Autistic person, they get part of the salary paid back by the state.

So you are fighting a battle where you try to become the best you can be, but are limited by the stamp that you can not hide without serious repercussions on the long term. IF you already can hide it. It's frustrating, and often results in perfectly capable Autistic people having to work in Sheltered Workspaces simply because these exist on the basis of employing handicapped people. But these companies rarely have a branch in the expertise you spent your childhood and teenage years getting good at.

If you'd ask me who the real authorities are on Autism... the closest I can think of are Therapists and people who closely work with Autistic people on a very regular basis. Maybe even some teachers in dedicated schools. Simply put, people who's sole professional purpose is to understand and guide people like us.
Because it's those kinds of people who have helped me become a social creature, despite there being a chance I was going to become a reclused and socially awkward hermit.

So when you ask us what it's like to be Austistic... We, or at least I, won't hate you for it. But there may be a facepalm happening... Because deep inside we feel like we know nothing of the grand scheme of things on this topic. Just our own experience. And it feels inappropriate to treat us as if we somehow know all the wisdom surrounding us, simply because we are experiencing it.

Which is an interesting thing. Because we have learned where the limitation of our knowledge lies. Yet people on a daily basis base their presumptions on rumors and media outlets that by no means have a guarantee to be reputable.

The sheer idea that we acknowledge that the information we have is not representative of the whole picture, could further our collective intelligence drastically as it leaves a desire to learn.
But instead, many people deem whatever amount of knowledge they have, sufficient to form an opinion on it and base their actions on it.

The smartest thing I have learned to say in a conversation is:
"I am not equipped to confidently form or express an opinion about this, yet."

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