01 November, 2010
Regular Person Listening Day
Hi, it's Autistics Speaking Day, which is a thing. Um, well, basically an organization for autism made up of people that aren't autistic--I don't know if you've ever heard of that before, but there's a lot of them. They decided that they should do a thing on November first, called Communication Shutdown, and they thought that people should promote autism awareness and try to think about what it's like to be Autistic by not using social networking sites like Facebook.
Which, I mean,
number one, like disability simulations tend to not be good, because you can't tell what it's like to have a disability just by putting on a blindfold or sitting in a wheelchair or not going on Facebook (which doesn't actually have anything to do with being Autistic)...but you can't tell what it's like, so it's silly to imagine that you can and it's better to just listen to people and treat everyone respectfully,
um, you know,
and, um, I think a lot of Autistic people, when we hear about autism awareness, are like, "well I mean, wouldn't people be more aware if they just listened to us, instead of doing something like this, which doesn't really have to do with us?" So Corina Becker, who is an Autistic person who does a lot of cool things, decided that we should have Autistics Speaking Day which just means that people who have autism could just, like, write or say something, like, on the Internet or somewhere else, just to tell people how they feel about stuff.
I made a post and stuff, it's about the sort of thing I always talk about, nothing interesting, I'm going to link to it in the description of this video.
One thing I wanted to say is just...I mean, when I see the phrase "Autistics Speaking Day" that does make me feel, you know, it makes me feel weird because some people can't speak and some people can't even write.
So, by definition, it has to leave some people out I guess, at least superficially, but, I think, um, I feel like people may see that and say, "Well, the people with autism in my life, they can't write a post, and they can't tell me how they feel." So, um...to people who feel like that, who are in that situation, I think that there's still a way of observing Autistics Speaking Day with the person in your life. And, um, one way of doing that is respecting the person and knowing that the life they live has meaning for them.
One example of the opposite of what I'm recommending is something that one of my psych professors said I think a week or two ago when she was talking about autism. Someone mentioned that one of the kids with autism they had worked with was very focused on like, people's hair, or like, shoelaces, or something, I can't remember what it was...
No, it was trains, which are great, it was actually something that's, like, inarguably cool, but then my professor was like, "Well, you know, that's autistic people, they get really interested in uninteresting things."
So, um, I mean, how does anyone decide what an uninteresting thing is? Like, I don't like the TV show Glee, but my friend likes it, and my friend doesn't like the TV show Mad Men because she thinks that nothing happens. And some people like sports, like, professional sports, and I don't like professional sports, I like comics books and some people don't, um, and, well, I like trains, and I like, um, looking at colors, and some people, um, they just like spinning things and looking at them. People like a lot of things and I guess I don't really like the idea of saying that...
I mean, it's certainly possible to say, "For this person it's become, like, a severe problem that they're always spinning things and not doing anything else." You know, you can say that, but I feel like the level of judgment in saying, "They're interested in uninteresting things..." (coughs) Sorry. I'm also sick, um, in addition to being Autistic.
But um, I think a lot of the time, people have a way of talking about people...I mean really, all disabled people, but often people with very severe disabilities who aren't verbal, people have a way of looking at them and saying, "their meaningless behavior, um...they...I don't understand what they're doing so I think that it's meaningless."
Um, I guess I feel like one thing that Autistics Speaking Day, which I guess you could just call it Regular Person Listening Day, I guess one thing that Regular Person Listening Day could be about is just seeing that everyone does what they do for a reason, and if someone in your life is doing things that you don't understand, like making noises, or getting very upset when you don't think they should be upset, or not being able to wear their clothes because their clothes are uncomfortable for them and their sensory issues, I mean, I feel like a way of listening to them is just refusing to ascribe meaninglessness to behavior that you don't understand, um,
I think that's a kind of listening that you can do for everyone no matter what they can do in terms of talking.