The article, “Islands of Loneliness:,” by Theoharis, et. al, the authors write about the importance of inclusive education for Autistic people like myself. I reflect how I agree with the authors. They interview several Self-Advocates on the autistic spectrum including Temple, Tito, Daniel Tammet, and others (there is also Carly Fleischmann as well). These people have different stories about what drives them for social interaction because if you met one Autistic person you’ve only met one Autistic person. Every one on the autistic spectrum is different. And as in beginning of the song by Freddie Jackson called “You are my Lady,” he sings “There’s something that I want to say, but words sometimes get in the way…” This song makes me think of how it is hard for Autistics many times to communicate the way so called ‘normal’ people speak.
Instead of reiterating what my Autistic peers have told you in this article which are valid too, I prefer to reflect on my own needs and wants for social interaction. As I discussed in my reflection on Mark Haddon’s book, I went to Autreat 2 years in a row. I am hoping to make it to another Autistic run event again futures to come. Although it is not called Autreat anymore and Jim Sinclair does not run the week long event anymore. One of the many retreats over the summer was created after Jim disbanded Autreat, called Association for Autistic Community conference or what some people call Autistic Con or as some friends will still try to call ‘Autreat’.
I say being Autistic is culture because there are many things that make up who we are. For example, stimming like flapping when we are happy, angry, sad, applauding, etc to express ourselves. Another part of Autistic culture is echolalia which means a person like myself repeats words or phrases without realizing it. It is very hard to be around Non-Autistic people especially those people without disabilities because they typically do not understand us. Sometimes I don’t get enough energy (or in Autistic culture we call enough spoons) to explain to Non-Autistic people what we are and how we like to interact. Though many people find because I have practiced passing as normal so many times, that there are Non-Disabled people who don’t really think of me being Autistic. However, I am and always will be!
Autistic people do socialize when we want to, we just need to be comfortable with the person we are about to socialize with. If someone is going to want to interact with us, then we need them to understand our own space so no one crosses into our boundaries either verbally or nonverbally. Everyone always talks about how Autistic people lack social skills, but there are many Non-Autistic people who lack social skills too. Social skills and boundaries should be taught in schools with everyone. The article talks about the importance of inclusive education among every student even those who are on the autistic spectrum and I truly believe that inclusive education helps. However, it’s not perfect since inclusive education needs to still ensure every one in the classroom including teachers respect one another.
I wanted to make sure I was mainstreamed by the time I reached Junior High School. Although since the education system wasn’t exactly accepting back when I was in secondary school, I was bullied not only by students, but by some teachers too. Society decided to create segregative schools and settings for Autistic people since we were different. They felt and still feel by segregating many of us, and teaching us to conform, we would learn to adapt to the current system. We were considered burdens to the current school system and to society, so they place many of my Autistic peers in segregative Residential school centers throughout the world today (like the Judge Rotenberg Center). This is not inclusive and does not provide us with the self-determined social interaction that many other Human cultures are given in school.
Educating people does not even mean placing students in private charter schools either where the students go home after a single school day. The current public primary and secondary school systems need to acknowledge the many ways a person interacts and communicates and learns with the world. Not being able to speak does not mean we don’t want interaction or communication, it just means we may use different ways to communicate our thoughts to others. For example, Henry Frost fought to be included in the public school system as a Non-verbal Autistic youth!
Loneliness is a problem in this world that society created, but we can solve it by understanding each other more. By understanding each other, we can read the many hundreds of blogs written by my Autistic peers telling our stories as more blogs are created too. The article stresses how many people on the autistic spectrum write about their autobiographical stories for others to read. Well, everyone needs to read them all whether published in books or personal blogs, and read each account as a way of understanding the differences so that society can understand and accept. Listen, read, learn, and understand Autistics who have their own way of just being and interacting.
Additions after the reflection I wrote:
There are many Autistic people who are Non-Verbal. It can be hard for parents of Autistic children to know that not every child is going to be the same wanting and reaching for the same goals as what many parents want for their children. Many parents want their children especially those who are Autistic, to think like the status quo and make a lot of money, and I understand why. Not everyone can be a CEO, a Director, a social butterfly, or even a Celebrity, and parents need to understand this. It’s okay for any one to be their own unique success story. Many parents of Autistic children want their children to be success stories not needing any support. Support is a necessary part of being Human because everyone needs some kind of connection all throughout their lives to feel a part of someone else. That’s why we have our families, so people can be supported. Independence is important, but everyone needs to remember the importance of Interdependence in humanity.
Please Read Lydia Brown’s “Privilege and the Myth of Independence” on her blog, Autistic Hoya!
Please also read Alyssa’s post on “Ableism is to Blame”
Please also read Kassiane’s post here ‘On Role Models’ from her blog from 2012.
There is also another retreat called Ocate Cliffs as well, run by Star Ford who runs Divergent Labs!
Here is a video I like to show people about what not to say to Autistic people.
Here is a video by Drew Morton Goldsmith a Non-verbal Autistic person who talks about the importance of Autistic Rights!
and, here is a video series called Ask an Autistic, Amythyst has a series of videos on ‘Ask an Autistic’ who vlogs different topics each week on her You Tube account, she also has a blog which she states on the videos. This is the first episode:
Any one who wants to see Citizen Autistic on Hulu can see it tomorrow and talk about it on a Twitter feed on Monday!
There is so many things every one needs to learn about that people generally don’t know or think about when people think about autism in general.
Causton-Theoharis, J., Ashby, C., & Cosier, M. (2009). Islands of loneliness: Exploring social interaction through the autobiographies of individuals with autism. Journal Information, 47(2).
Have a great week!!