Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Autistics Speaking Day

Someone sent me a note asking why I didn't participate in National Autistics Speaking Day. The simple truth is, I'm not home on Tuesdays and don't have much time for anything outside my university duties on that day. I teach until 9 p.m. and don't get home until late.

I thought about writing something a day or two earlier, but I'm swamped with university projects, teaching, freelance writing, and a never-ending series of household-related tasks. I'm more than a little overwhelmed lately. I have to fit in a surgery this month, too, while staying somewhat on track.

So, here are my thoughts for "Autistics Speaking" as I glance at my new dry-erase board featuring a list of to-do items:

1. I am a "success" neither because of nor in spite of my "autistic" traits. I am a success because my wife, parents, extended family, and friends help me and I try to help them when I can. Success is a team effort, whether you're "normal" or not. Plus, no one is normal.

2. Autism does not define what I do for a living as a writer or teacher. I'm not in charge of anything autism-related at work, and the freelance writing seldom addresses autism or other disabilities.

3. Autism is a "disability" not a blessing or some special gift. So what? The list of human "impairments" is long, and almost everyone begins life and ends life with some level of impairment. Find ways to adapt, not ways to surrender.

4. Stereotypes of autism are unhelpful. The savant mythology, in particular, follows many of the college students I meet. They have to explain to peers, and some instructors, that autism is not synonymous with "Rain Man." Unfortunately, the media love unusual stories, so the "freaks and geeks" become the template for autism.

We did purchase the new whiteboard so I could see everything on my to-do list at a glance. My wife helps me stay organized, but I know several professors far less organized than I am. My lists and notes work well for me.

I'm off to work soon, for a series of meetings. That's how "normal" my life is. I go to meetings (where I'm as bored as everyone else), do paperwork, cash a paycheck (direct deposit), and pay bills (via
automatic bill-pay). My daily routine is nothing unusual, in other words.

That's what I want to say: My life is simply a regular life.

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