It’s Autistics Speaking Day. I didn’t know there even was such a thing, until I saw my Facebook feed flooded with it, by various Autism advocacy groups and pages that I’ve subscribed to.
Righto. So. Speaking of speaking. I posted this long ramble the other day, about my struggle with a certain person regarding respecting my preferred mode of communication, “gaseous exudations.” While it does seem on the surface as if nothing but an angry rant, and perhaps some of you NT folk may be even slightly (or more than slightly? who knows?) offended by the blunt-speak, it’s actually a very serious issue, and a deeply painful yet far too common feature of Autistic life.
What is so difficult to understand about a simple request to ‘speak’ / communicate via text instead of incessant chatty phone calls (unless in absolute emergency or if you are a really close friend and too old to use technology, like my mother)? Why so utterly unimaginable to comply to a straight-forward request? Would you insist and persist if the person were deaf? Are you that foolish, or really just callous, selfish, and inconsiderate?
Autistics have been oppressed, repressed, suppressed and pressed to pulp from all sides and in such brilliantly ingenious ways by the normative world that the very core of our Beings are left in various mangled dangly shreds. Scattered all over the excruciating landscape of gaseous exudations, the Autistic communiqué is fragmented – not by our own doing, but that of the normative adhering to their colonial constructs of socialspeak – and the soul a crushed, dishevelled and exhausted entity.
Autistics speak in many ways. We can communicate even without speaking. To the worded world, some of us summon up a lot of energy to articulate sonically our words, others of us use typed words, and even with our body language. Just because we do not yabberyabberyabber aloud all the time, does not mean we have nothing to say, or are empty barren landscapes waiting for the inevitable death (or for the NT to save us)! Sometimes, we are angry. Other times, we are bitter. But most of the time, we are merely just trying very hard to be heard.
Who are the socially impaired, the lacking in empathy, the inflexible and rigid, in this grand ironic comedy here? Let us think a little outside the stolid stone walls of neuronormativity, shall we? Can you? May we? Please?
So, round and round we go. A grand circus. The above mentioned fiasco was about the little day-to-day social encounters that weary the Autistic, pushing us continuously to the brink and into the abyss of overload and meltdown. However, there is a much more sinister issue with repercussions of great consequence. The issue of the Autistic Voice in Autism Discourse at professional level.
Every time the word ‘Autism’ pops up in the official, professional neuronormative activity realm, the narrative is most often than not about and by non-Autistics, looking at and even helping themselves to the profit-pie of Autism from a neuronormative standpoint.
Don’t want to take my Autistic word for it? Take a look around. OK, let me gouge out the sticky guts to provide proof of the pudding:
‘Autism’ branded organisations that have absolutely zero Autistic representation; ‘Autism Awareness’ events – conferences, forums, symposiums, whatever fancy names they like to call them – without a single Autistic speaker; ‘Autism Recovery’ or ‘cures’ that cost vast sums of money being peddled willy nilly by dubious characters making questionable and blatantly unscientific claims (e.g. Sonrise); and famously dreaded (by actually Autistic persons) ‘Behaviour Modification’ programmes aimed at desperate parents wanting to make their Autistic children more ‘normal’ (whose normality, may I ask?).
Where is the Autistic Voice in Autism discourse? I am talking about the focus being on Autistic people: is this about us, for us, for our intrinsic Autistic wellbeing, nurturing to our innate Autistic abilities, and respectful of our paradigm? I am also referring to Autistic leadership, about vibrant and dynamic voices that help to steer the ship, make decisions and change attitudes and modus operandi – about a real presence, not just relegated to token jobs sweeping the floor, cleaning toilets, serving coffee, or even drawing cute animal figures, though these are worthy and noble jobs regardless.
Colonial Subjugation. There was a time when colonial masters spoke for their subalterns. Nowadays, people will be shocked at and would never even attend an event touting “Indian Culture” where there is not a single Indian person to be seen, apart from the doorman. Yet, this is acceptable and much de rigueur at Autism events, initiatives and programmes.
Autism Speaking Day? Yes, we do speak. We speak in myriad ways, not just the neuronormative worded chat chat talk talk yakkity-yakking. Is anyone listening?