Imprisoned in other peoples attitudes? Those of us on the spectrum who achieve do so with the support of others and their belief that we can and will achieve. For those on the spectrum who grow up being told that being autie/aspie diminishes their life prospects, who are told incessantly they are disabled and less able it is much, much, much harder to achieve.
A number of speakers here, both on the spectrum and on the other side of autism have talked about the need to stress our skills, strengths and potential. Speakers on the spectrum have talked about how hurtful the bullying is/was, how they have to battle not only their own challenges but the negative assumptions of others. What they have not said and I think needs to be said, is how damaging it is to construct the AS as a set of impairments. Yes, we have impairments, but so do paralympians….
It is fantastic to hear so many speakers talking about the positive, and the need for research into education and the AS to listen to the voices of kids on the spectrum. It would be even better to have these professionals send out an open invitation to educational professionals on the spectrum to share their insights and to hear what they say too.
Intense concentration, amazing focus – traits all employers would love to see in their employees, and that all educators should value highly in their students… AS traits. More education research could focus on looking at environmental factors that support and those that create barriers for both teachers supporting AS students and AS students achieving. I looked at aspects of this for my doctoral research ( view thesis )and it worries me when I hear the research funders and drivers talking about looking for ‘the intervention’ that will enhance the lives of AS students, when they mean a teaching strategy. Those of us on the spectrum are all different, some off us are doctors, lawyers, researchers, teachers and others are stay at home mums or dads, yet others in college or uni, and some in supported employment. I think we would all say that the biggest single intervention would be to understand autism and our experiences, to accept our reality as valid and to let us be who we are. I do not mean that we should be allowed to have tantrums all through school, to sit in the corner and colour or draw and never do anything else. If a child has a meltdown, they need the space and time to recover, but they need to learn. To learn life and employment skills, to learn how to understand themselves and others, to learn that when the car brakes outside that others are not necessarily bothered by that….
Teachers and parents can offer love, warmth, praise for the good stuff and encouragement to find new strategies to combat things we find challenging or other ways to express our feelings. Online recently the use of meditation has been heavily discussed as a method to manage our feelings in a healthy and socially acceptable way. On a personal level my partner says I am less stressed and difficult when I meditate regularly. On a professional level, AS kids that I have taught to do a simple breathing meditation have reported that they feel better when they do this and their families and schools have reported that these students have stopped expressing their anger and frustration through hurting self/others/property.
I am looking forward to gaining more insights into how we on the spectrum view ourselves, our successes and struggles and how those on the other side of autism view us, our struggles and successes!