“Art is medicine.” Art, radio, and the power of welcome.

May 26, 2018 Comments Off on “Art is medicine.” Art, radio, and the power of welcome.

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Detail from a work in progress: Look Away © Sonia Boué 2018

In February I made a journey to Spain, through France, retracing (in reverse) my father’s exile journey at the defeat of Spain to the Fascist dictator Francisco Franco in 1939. It was to make a BBC Radio 4 programme called, The Art of Now: Return to Catalonia, which has now aired twice and is available on iPlayer on the link above.

What emerged from this collaboration with Overtone Productions was an extraordinary piece of radio art, which honours my father’s story, and acts as an immersive sound poem with documentary elements – but which is not ‘presented’ in the conventional manner. I feel this is probably a unique piece of work – uncompromising and avant guarde – it is a challenging listen.

Not following convention is something of a trademark for me as I am autistic – my DNA won’t allow me to be conventional. Increasingly, I’ve come to feel this as a badge of honour, and in this case it is especially so.

Joyfully, the second broadcast occurred during a community workshop this week (part of a series I’m currently leading) and so we played the programme through loudspeakers as we worked on our group installation.  That was a kick and half! Yet, I must admit the listening became even more challenging as the sound quality wasn’t great once amplified – but I loved the intense focus in the room as people tuned in to my voice, and then how they relaxed into the sound giving in to the layers as they carried on working. This programme can wash over you like the sound poem it is – it’s not like Pokemon – you don’t have to catch it all.

The title for our workshops is, Lost Property: belonging and belongings, and comprises of a responsive multiform approach to storytelling around significant objects. Each participant has been encouraged to create an individual response which will form part of a whole piece. I’ve been excited by the responses and how this community has embraced my art practice, and how by extension they have embraced me too.

Welcome is also a theme in my programme, and through it I have learned that the power of welcome cannot be overestimated. Acceptance and generosity are embedded in most acts of welcome – and this is what I want to capture in our final piece in which we will celebrate the multiple stories and identities that have come together in the workshops. Between us we have generated a sense of belonging through the emotional oxytocin that is welcome.

Genuine welcome is not conditional, and so it has been with our programme. I’m thrilled that it was chosen to be broadcast again, and that it sits on iPlayer so that it can be tapped into at any time.

I’m incredibly grateful to the commissioning editor James Runcie, for the opportunity to develop my art piece for the programme, and to carry out this important emotional repair work in Spain. The programme will have an impact on many people – it already has – and will lead to other projects (currently in the planning). It is a unique contribution to the recovery of historical memory of exile after the prolonged attempt at official erasure by the Franco regime, and the subsequent pact of forgetting agreed on the transition to democracy.

The programme was commissioned and made in just 8 weeks. The focus and dedication involved was legion. It will take time to absorb it’s full impact, it will (I know) continue to reverberate. The power of this work is not contained in a single listen.

The impact of making it continues to flow through me (generating more creative power.)

With the help of my wonderful collaborators and by the power of the BBC my father’s memory has been honoured and enshrined.

And I take strength from Overtone Production’s reading of my work too. If I can convey  such a powerful sense of resistance (which I feel they captured in the programme) I am succeeding.

This programme is for anyone who has lost a father, for all those who wished they’d had those important conversations before it was too late, and for anyone who has suffered at the hands of political oppression.

One of my workshop participants nailed it after listening to the programme. Art is medicine, he said, and he would know as an artist and a person in exile himself.

I think this comment will stay with me forever.

 

 

 

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Not thinking in pictures; autism and a possible sub-diagnosis of aphantasia.

May 16, 2018 § 24 Comments

 

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It’s been a curious time – one of transitions, I guess. Spring weather and lighter nights coincide with reaching beyond the 2 year anniversary of my diagnosis of autism.

A decisive diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome came as a surprise, I expected equivocation and maybes’. Hidden disability is a tricky rogue, adept at fooling even the person who embodies and lives it. A subtle form of gaslighting is our daily bread. You look fine! You seem okay! Why can’t you do that? You did it yesterday…

These are the conversations we internalise and play on repeat, looping endlessly, until diagnosis day or the day/s self-identification kicks in (either is good in my book).

From this moment you can begin to deconstruct, understanding ever more the hows and whys of the daily struggle. Sometimes we wade through treacle, and sometimes we glide like swans. Only careful unpicking reveals why (though the why is often maddeningly elusive). Finding out why is so helpful. Finding out why (I find) often requires a group conversation. This can be quite random for an autistic person – a process of sifting and happening on rare pieces of gold.

But these golden nuggets can be just what we need to rub the looping critical internalised voices from our minds. Yesterday I learned about aphantasia  from autistic blogger and researcher Shona Davis. Aphantasia relates to the inability to visualise images. I’m still wrestling with the concept and am uncertain that it applies to me wholly, but suspect that at least partially it probably does . I often find that peeling back sensory and/or neurological difference is cloudy at first, my kind of ‘normal’ is long lived and late diagnosis can feel like playing a game of tag with yourself. I’m also a little hung up on how literally to take ‘seeing’ pictures in the mind as an expression, let alone arrive at a whole new diagnosis just like that. But it sounds like an important thing to know about yourself when so many areas of life can be affected.

Okay aphantasia is not well known or researched, but I find myself reflecting in new ways on how poor information and services are for autistic people, how little attention is given to the detail of our diagnosis. There can be so many strands to each individual presentation of autism. Not only should we as a society embrace that fact instead of chasing tired old stereotypes about autism, we autistics should also receive commensurate support.

Aphantasia could provide the key to so much understanding of the many ways in which I struggle to learn and retain information, recognise people and keep them in mind when they are absent. It could also relate to the intense need to see and touch things to understand them, and to learn hands-on rather than in the abstract.

I also feel I’ve reached a tipping point after diagnosis in which I must begin to reconstruct my life. There comes a point where all the carefully garnered information about autism and reinterpretations of my decades on the earth should lead somewhere – to forming new helpful habits and adaptations I hope.

As I drifted off to sleep last night I tried to conjure a scene. Useless. See a yellow bucket, I said to my sleepy imagination. Imagination said no.

If I screw my eyes and dig back into word association fleetingly I get something – a picture book bucket. I find a black bucket easier to conjure (builder’s buckets are a stronger image – more familiar probably – but slippery as sand in my mind’s eye). I don’t get nothing at all but what I get is faint and has that rolodex quality which facial recognition also contains for me. I get there by association. I don’t see black (as some report) and I don’t see words either. Perhaps what I see is something in-between?

The more familiar an object is the more clearly I see it but it quickly skips away. I can see my fantasies (I can see pieces of art I’ve made or imagined pieces) but I can’t seem to conjure images to command. There are also powerful visual experiences which stay with me that I can’t easily rub out so I feel this form of seeing for me may be deeply linked to emotional engagement at the time of seeing (if that makes sense).

I reflect again how poorly I understood the variety within our autisms when I read Temple Grandin’s incredible book, Thinking in Pictures, so many years ago, desperate to understand my newly diagnosed child. I can now see that fascinating as it was it didn’t help me all that much. They don’t think in pictures either – though obviously some autistics do, while others of us can’t conjure a single mental image.

My work as a visual artist is curious when you consider that I don’t have this ability firmly embedded in my neurology, and that my visual acuity is otherwise high. I’m incredibly visually sensitive (sometimes this is painful) and this guides me in my work. Probably, as in so many other ways, I’m just navigating differently.

Yesterday I took a picture of a broken plastic magnetic letter while out walking (a new habit). It is orange, the magnet is missing and it lies frontside down. I can see it clearly in my mind and this image is stable. Is this because it struck me so? Is it because I took a photo, and then spent time editing it on instagram? Is it because I love orange? Or is it because it is the letter which begins all the names of the men closest to me?

In recalling it just now before adding the image I had forgotten that it was broken or that it had a small blossom resting on it. Otherwise my visual memory was strong.

I think the truth may be that when it comes to detail and specifics, when there is time to embed an image (as in the creative process) and when the emotional pull is strong enough  I can visualise an object. Visualising a whole scene, or something in the abstract is something else entirely.

Somehow knowing this  feels like a huge step in rebuilding my life.

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Portal: disabling bureaucracy #ActuallyAutistic

May 6, 2018 § Leave a comment

 

Portal 10I don’t want to write too many words. I’d like my video to speak for itself. Mainly, I need Arts Council England to know that their bureaucratic processes, in current form, disable significant groups of autistic and neurodivergent artists.

This is a specific issue in my life – but I also want to make a more general point that bureaucracy physically hurts us.

I know autistics who succeed in making Arts Council applications – I also know many who are unable to contemplate beginning one. The argument often goes that “neurotypical” artists struggle with it too. Albeit true, (in the sense that it is a gruelling process of competition for limited resources which also requires ‘insider information’ to succeed) it is also an ableist thing to say because it minimises exactly how uneven the playing ground is for us as a group. Just because some of us push through doesn’t mean it is okay. The bar is high – but the bar is also structurally unfair.

I want also to say that those of us who do take on the beast can be harmed in the process. I think this is disabling.

I think the Arts Council should know.

Thank you,Tamsin Parker – you’re a powerful voice for autistic women.

May 1, 2018 § Leave a comment

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A film by Tamsin Parker (screen grab)

This blog post has turned around in the writing – all because Tamsin Parker has a truly remarkable voice. The voices of autistic women, how they are appropriated and contained, is the theme which runs through my post.

What’s becomes clear in her case, I feel, is that the socially constrained female voice and the issues of ‘masking’ autism combine, making autism a feminist issue.

But learning about Tamsin’s horrific experience at the BFI on her 25th birthday yesterday, was the final straw after a difficult few days.

I’ll be honest, hearing about it has been one of the rawest moments since my autism diagnosis in March 2016.

I rarely talk about being a mum because my children (now young adults) haven’t wanted me to, but the sheer cruelty and injustice of this act pierced my mother heart.

Coincidentally, last week I joined an impromptu group of autistic women using the hash tag #AutisticMotherhood. I’m not a joiner, so this was quite an event in itself, but I felt my voice as an autistic women had been appropriated.

#AutisticMotherhood was born on Twitter in response to  Kibo Production’s play about a cold autistic mother character (who it is now claimed by producers is not autistic but has post natal depression). We even have a  website   where two open letters to Kibo can now be viewed. The play was written by a man who is not autistic, and you can read my views on this in my last post.

It felt important to pin my colours to this cause, but I also ended up feeling tossed about and quite at sea as a result.  I reached a low point.

Sinking my energy into #AutisticMotherhood coincided with this cruel attack on Tamsin, and kaboom!

It felt so close – and not only from the point of view of a mother. I can also laugh uncontrollably in public. When this happens my shoulders shake, I wheeze and snort and make a ‘spectacle’ of myself, as well as crying ‘too easily’ – my other party trick. Some of us are emotional and expressive, but I guess I ‘mask’ enough to get by – but this masking constrains me.

Because I am autistic I do also get things socially very wrong sometimes – despite best efforts. The other day someone ran away from me in the supermarket (!) Yes – quite literally, he ran. I thought that was quite rude and showed a distinct lack of social skill, to be honest. Perhaps he was scared of my autism, which I had told him about in an email.

But the cruelty of that scene at BFI runs on a loop in my brain. What cuts deep is the native intolerance shown, and the insistence of some audience members to their viewing rights above common decency. They seemed to find it perfectly acceptable to round on a vulnerable young woman, one man yelling an abusive sexist comment, and others applauding her ejection from the cinema.

The hounding of an unconstrained female voice (as well as ableism) is what I see.

What haunted me was that Tamsin might be alone after this ordeal, and I’m relieved that she was with her sister and was able to go home in a car with her mum.

I’m also doing the best I can as a mum – but honestly, sometimes the scale of intolerance in the world breaks my heart. We have such a long way to go on invisible disability.

But then Tamsin’s mum Lydia posted a film by Tamsin and her powerful voice gave me hope again. I love her energy, which won’t be contained. I love how she sees the world and what she has to say. Tamsin is a strong role model for young autistic women (and indeed for women of all ages and neurotype).

Tamsin deserves so much respect for her love of cinema and her talent in filmmaking. One way to make up for things BFI (if you’re listening) is to put on a screening of Tamsin’s work.

Tamsin, if you read this, I have a diagnosis of Asperger’s too (though I like to call myself autistic). I think Force of Habit is one of the best advocacy films I’ve seen and very inspiring. If people are unforgiving, like the man in your film, then I think they probably aren’t worth knowing (unless they can change their minds).

Thanks so much for reading xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#AutisticMotherhood Misrepresented

April 27, 2018 § 8 Comments

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Work in Progress in the Studio © Sonia Boué 2018

 

I’m breaking a rule by writing about a play I haven’t read or seen, called The Big Things, by Mike Heath, which has recently stirred unease among autistic people, autistic mothers in particular.  The Big Things, is ostensibly about autistic motherhood but from what I hear this subject is never truly examined in the play.

Yes okay, I’m going on hearsay (from autistic women who’ve read the script and one who’s seen the play) but this is more than good enough for me. I feel I’ve given both playwright and production company (Kibo) more than enough of my time in the past few days.

Autistic motherhood, in contrast, is a subject I know intimately from the inside, unlike Mike Heath.

Mike Heath, and Kibo Productions have stumbled into a PR nightmare in taking on this subject (it seems) without sufficient knowledge or research. The real shocker for me is that this play should be Shortlisted for the BBC Alfred Bradley Bursary Award 2016.  Culturally speaking, no-one in the room sees autistic women. Let alone do they see us as creatives who might want to (and do) write our own plays about ourselves.

But I think this play slipped through the net, as it were, because it’s not really about autistic motherhood (how could it be?) No – this play is about how frustrating a fictional neurotypical man finds it to have a relationship with an autism stereotype. She’s a cardboard cut-out, dude. No wonder….

I should explain that as an autistic mother my greatest fear about this play is that it could gain success.  And that the portrayal of “Grace” (ironically named as she has no grace?) could develop the legs of a Rainman or a Christopher (Curious Incident in the Nightime) and go walk about. Such figures stick and we are landed with them, unable to shake them off for decades. I literally shudder at this thought.

I wouldn’t suggest that a neurotypical man should never write about autistic motherhood, for what is fiction if not the work of imagination?

But I admit I’m not keen on the notion of neurotypical men writing about autistic women at this point in our cultural emergence (for reasons of historic and systemic ableism and patriarchy). But if they must, at the very least they should do the homework (which means consulting actually autistic women who are mothers, and hiring us as sensitivity editors).

If they must, they should do right by us and avoid writing harmful stereotypes. But this sounds like a horrible play, which does exactly the opposite.

At one point in the heated Twitter debate things went a bit dark. Were some of us trying to force their creative to do something against his will, Kibo Tweeted, somewhat petulantly I thought. Er, NO.

Up until this point it had seemed they would do their utmost to put this living howler right. They’d seemed hapless and merely ignorant (although they had tweeted inaccurately that the National Autistic Society had read the script for them). No-one was calling out malicious intention (that I could see) or being in any way coercive – not at all. It’s my experience that autistic people rarely feel they have power in such situations – this is the whole point.

Somehow as a group we had overstepped the mark for Kibo, and trust was on the wane on both sides. This irony shouldn’t be lost.

A group conversation online can go in many directions, and meanings misunderstood. But we’re rightfully angry about The Big Things.

I wish Mike Heath had not had the sense of entitlement to write this play. He was, of course, free to write it – but no one said autistic mothers had to like it, or quieten down while others mop up the mess.

Autistics are a minority group who don’t have cultural representation (although we’re edging forward) – the point is that we don’t yet have a voice. The voice we’re presently conferred by others thus becomes crucial – each time. Each time someone who has a platform writes about us and gets it wrong we’re pushed back.

This is vital for autistic women who are mothers too. We have been even more overlooked as a demographic.  We’ve been either unimagined (as not possible) or maligned (refrigerator mothers – autistic causation seeping from our frozen nipples to our unloved infants!)

I felt the shadow of Bruno Bettelheim in the descriptions I read of Grace by the autistic women who act as my first hand witnesses. Is it any wonder that this conversation is so uncomfortable for us all? It should be.

If you want to support the voices of autistic mothers, please read this marvellous open letter  led by Katherine May. You can ask to be a signatory in support, and you don’t have to be an autistic mother to do so.

Thank you so much for reading this post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get networked in! Autism and systemic ableism in the arts.

April 15, 2018 § 7 Comments

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Mrs Pepperpot to the Rescue

 

My name is Sonia Boué and I’m an autistic artist. I’ve had a lot of luck in my career lately –  which has largely come about using my own autistic methods and working with two truly wonderful mentors. On the face of it I look pretty networked in, but most of my opportunities have come from sharing my work and ideas online. At the end of each project I have to start from scratch, and I have no idea how to ‘use my contacts’ or network neurotypically. The sheer scale of the social labour involved in networking neurotypically is beyond me.  This is why I have created a new kind of network called WEBworks, which is autistic in conception and in all it’s various manifestations. It’s for autistic artists and has a focus on professional development and creating access to opportunity. It’s a small pilot project – manageable and yet ambitious. It’s about empowering us all to become more visible and gain parity in the arts.

People are probably attracted to my work because of the intense autistic focus I am able to give to it – my attention is directed at what I do and not who I know.

So it’s been a jolt, and a hugely painful experience to be told by someone from Arts Council England at a recent conference (in a room full of professionals) to just “get networked in.”

Invisible disability is a box you can tick on a funding form to indicate who might benefit from your project, but it remains invisible in terms of just who might be present in a room full of professional people all grappling with the diminishing funding pot in the arts.

Autistic people are invisible as players. We’re so invisible that I’ve unearthed a major inequity in the funding requirements for those like me who aspire to be players. You see, I need big funding for my project, which includes support for WEBworks. Under present funding rules I need to prove why I can’t compete on a level playing field to match fund my project – and make the case that disabled people should not have to match fund their own access needs (and in my case that of my autistic colleagues). Perhaps no-one has thought of this, because no-one like me has ever applied to be a player?

(NB. I have been told ACE rules don’t demand that we match our access costs, and that exemptions exist within the present system – but this is simply not reflected in the mixed messages ACE give to it’s funding interface users).

When I found myself quite by accident at an ACE funding surgery in my local area and brought up the possible problems with match funding for disabled people in general – I was told this would have to be proved. If you just have a foot missing we wouldn’t be convinced.

I let this ableist comment go at the time, but made a mental note – this person needs training – and I  (and all my autistic colleagues) hold much of the the missing knowledge.

A missing foot (if you will call it thus) could imply almost any level of impact in a person’s life (invisible disability such as PTSD, chronic pain, fatigue…we just don’t know and shouldn’t assume) which could affect their ability to raise the signifiant sums of match funding required if they are also not networked in. We’re not talking peanuts, we’re talking resource rich networks from whom signifiant favours can be drawn into a project – for which you have to be resource rich yourself to earn them (in ways I, and those like me just can’t be).

I shouldn’t really be blogging. I have my Arts Council application to finish, but this is way too important not to bring to light.

You see something profoundly (if unwittingly) ableist just happened to me, so aspects of Arts Council England’s disabling funding system have literally fallen into place.

I  tried to speak about access in the system at a recent arts conference where Arts Council representatives were present.

For context, I rarely go to arts conferences because I find them inaccessible and they often don’t tend to speak to my experience.  I don’t generally go about with a large ‘A’ stuck to my forehead, or a, hey, I’m autistic! t-shirt on either. In fairness not many people knew my status (though I did make a point of telling everyone I spoke to). If I go again – as I now feel I must – I will break all my own sartorial rules and wear the t-shirt (with flashing lights if needs be).

But when I raised what I consider to be a very real problem of access I have myself encountered and blogged about on the a-n blog site, I was just not taken seriously by the Arts Council representative. In the time it’s taken me to cut and paste this link I’ve received a comment from another artist. I know I was speaking for many.

“Yes, yes, YES! Keep going! I didn’t know there were diversity officers. Thank you for writing about this.”

Yet when I did speak up I was assured that everyone could have access to this particular service – just like that!

One person who heads a National Portfolio Organisation agreed. We have a regular meeting where you can talk to an Arts Council relationship manager (people who hold key information and can help with an application process)  – as though I should perhaps have known about it.

Like the Alf Prøysen character in the illustration above, I immediately shrank to the size of a pepperpot! But something made me go on (I’m autistically stubborn and all about justice).

But you have to be networked in to have this access, I pointed out, without stopping to reflect that this might seem rude. I was contradicting someone who had (oh, to hell with it) contradicted me. As I look back on it now – they were essentially making my point for me.

Well, get networked in! the Arts Council rep replied, as though this were the easiest (and most equitable) thing in the world. That appeared to be the end of my ‘non-point’. I was to join the NPO groups’ monthly meetings, job done.

I felt the room close in on me. I had both humiliated myself and been silenced.

In the break that followed, there was no processing time. One kind person offered to send details of the NPO group meetings, and another told me they too had struggled to get access to a relationship manager.

Then darkness – a film presentation to end the day. An unexpected event. Tears rolled suddenly down my face. Have you noticed how obvious tear wiping can be – so much rustling and grabbing for tissues, and elbows wiggling as you surreptitiously dab at your eyes. I let them roll.

But why tears? People had been nice to me, and the moment had passed.

I cried because the film was just so beautiful. Broken lives were being made whole again through the arts. I cried because I had been disabled by taking a risk and speaking out. The profound silencing of autistic people is historic and deeply painful within each one of us.

I want to talk to all the regional directors of Arts Council England. I want to talk to the director. I would like to tell them about our struggle, and the bias of their systems.

I want them to know how art redeems every aspect of my life and keeps me connected.  That I and others like me have so much to give – that we can be players if the playing field is levelled. What’s more we bring authenticity to the table. Truth is that Arts Council need us as much as we need it.

I’m not networked in, I will probably never be so in a recognisably neurotypical way. I rely on people to ‘get’ me and meet me half way. What interests me is how to make the system open and fair.

I want people at the very top of the organisation I apply to funding for to know how hard it was for me to stay in the room at this conference. How hard I have to work to be present, and what it took for me to raise my voice.  So here goes.

One of the presentations just goes on and on. Everyone in the room is loving it I think, but the stage lighting sends an never-ending series of blows across my retina. I’m sitting too close to the stage. And the voices won’t stop. So many voices.

I’m caught by surprise. This shouldn’t happen now – the conference is in its opening stages and I have all day to manage. I struggle to find a strategy or any kind of relief. I begin to wriggle in my chair conscious that I mustn’t do this too much or someone will notice. Surely it will stop soon I think, so I try to hang on. But no, it just carries on and on.

I dig into my bag for the the soft tangle brush I sometimes use to rub across my palms to regulate the build-up tension, but by now I’m honestly near screaming point – the option of screaming occurs to me but I fully understand this would break an unbreakable rule. I realise after the event that the voices were too loud – the mics were set at the wrong level for someone with my sensory issues sitting so close to the front of this theatre space – I received information from the sound system which others can filter out. I’m desperate but rooted to my chair. The brush is as effective as a wet sponge. I dig it into my palms but it may as well be in my bag for all the good it does me. The voices just won’t stop – I close my eyes but not for long. Drawing attention to myself is the last thing I want to do. As the presentation draws to close I suddenly remember to pinch my skin under my sleeve and I step out of the storm.

The lighting shifts again and we’re brought back into a room I can regulate myself in more easily. I can appear ‘normal’. There is no visible sign of my distress or the energy it took for me to survive this level of unexpected sensory onslaught. I’ll know in future to sit at the back with easy access to an exit.

I want everyone at Arts Council England to know that telling anyone who begins a conversation by saying that they have struggled with access  (in any context and for any reason) to get networked in, is simply not equitable. And I’m sorry, but for invisible disability it’s like telling a wheelchair user to grow a leg.

If you listen bottom up to authentic voices you’ll also discover why not everyone can just speak to a relationship manager.

It’s time for social currency (and who’s got it) to rise up the Arts Council diversity agenda.

An Arts Council award can be a profoundly life changing event in the professional life of an artist. This is what I want for all the artists who are involved in WEBworks.

In fact, I might just attach this blog post to my application. Why not – it sums up the need for my project perfectly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Riding the waves, my autism awareness week hack, part 1

March 27, 2018 § 5 Comments

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I’ve been quiet on matters autistic – taking a break and inhabiting pastures new.

But it feels to me that late diagnosis is a process, with a pattern to it. Like with any process there are stages, and one day we’ll know what they are and books of the self-help variety will no doubt be written – I hope by autistic people. And books are being written – of all kinds – by autistic writers, which is wonderful. It’s just that presently we don’t have an overview because as a culture we’re pretty new.

I feel myself edging towards a new stage – one of certain detachment and reevaluation.

I did want to ignore autism awareness week but I find myself writing a blog post instead. How random it that? As random as a week in which to be aware of autism, I expect.

As random as getting caught up in online arguments, feeling triggered and generally being more stressed (like at Christmas) because humans in some number have decided now’s the time to be aware that autistic humans exist.

So my blog post is not intended to become part of all that. On the contrary, what I offer is a possible antidote. I’ve nothing against randomness per se, it’s just that I feel I’m not obliged in anyway to engage with what I see as randomly orchestrated events, especially when they have such potential to create turbulence in our lives.

I propose to deal with the problematics of autism awareness week autistically, by (in my case) deploying my unusual lack of calendar awareness – yes, for me calendars are quite surplus to requirements, as I navigate through time and space by other means. Calendars can be helpful but who needs all that detail!

Sensory navigation is far more enjoyable (and quite effective generally). Okay it does mean that you miss an awful lot – including for example when Easter is due. I know it’s coming up soon, but the precise timing of Easter is foggy. So it shall be with autism awareness week. We may be in the middle of it but by the power of autism within me I can forget this VERY easily.

Okay, I’m lucky. I’ve never knowingly ducked the issue of privilege in my writing but it’s worth restating for newcomers. Some of us can’t avoid autism awareness week – maybe it invades online spaces which act as a life-line. Now that is serious. What to do?

Well, we may be able to chose not to scroll through comments getting more and more triggered. We may be able to resist comment – thereby avoiding being drawn in further. This sounds so very Zen – probably it is. But honestly, after getting seriously burned more than one time chasing down triggering material I’ve developed an aversion to it. I learned that those who comment online often bait, or can have inordinately closed minds, that this is frankly exhausting to counteract, and can lead precisely nowhere. Worse, it can make us downright miserable.

I’m not talking about potentially fruitful debate (sometimes we just don’t know if the other person is genuine), or countering misinformation – to be clear – I’m aiming at the flotsam and jetsam of internet life (the crud which surfaces and does the rounds).

We’re a righteous people – of course we are – and we’re often maligned and misunderstood. I’m learning how easily we can be drawn in on a wash, spin, repeat cycle, but also how this can represent a constant return to familiar trauma sites.

Obviously, each one of us must make our own choices on how we manage this. I’m not preaching.

I’ve been asking myself honestly if I want to spend my time doing this, and the answer is that I don’t.

Putting out positive messages suits my temperament so much better. SO I’m trying an experiment.

Can I be critical and positive? Can I find ways to infiltrate where I can influence more?

Let’s see what this week brings. I’ve already been more vocal today than I have been in months. Perhaps the value of such blighted awareness campaigns are that they can make us think about how to do something differently.

 

 

 

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