Spergy is a derogatory term used to describe people who are socially unaware or inept.
The word, derived from the label Asperger’s syndrome, is also extraordinarily positive when used by Long Sutton performance poet Callum Brazzo.
He doesn’t see the problems he has as something he has to learn to live with, to come to terms with, or to overcome.
To Callum, the difficulties he sometimes experiences in social situations is part of his identity, an attitude that has produced a “dramatically changed” young man of 24 from the insecure, isolated and bullied Peele School student of old.
He celebrates that identity in a website, spergy.org, an arts based community platform not only about himself, but sharing and celebrating the artwork of other creative or artistic autistic people. This month he is showcasing the work of 31 artistic autistics, though there is every chance more will be featured in future.
Alongside that, Callum performs his poetry at festivals and other events, and now has his first book of poetry to promote.
The poetry started at the Peele School as a means of escape from the negative emotions he was feeling.
In primary school he had merely been happy to play on his own, but once he moved to secondary school Callum felt more isolated and says he was then bullied.
Callum says: “I was just uncooperative, really sad, a bit defiant and deliberately got myself out of the classroom because I couldn’t cope.”
Life improved for Callum when he was taken out of school and put in a different setting at Boston College where he says staff had more patience with him.
He has gone on to take courses that could lead to paid work as a teaching assistant, as well as performing his poetry, launching spergy.org – and finding a partner.
He says now: “All autism is is a difference in neurological wiring. I am not ashamed of being autistic.
“Sometimes I struggle with knowing where boundaries are and decision-making is very difficult. I am talking simple decision-making. I take more time to process things.
“Queues in general really perturb me because of the personal space invasion. What people seem to do in queues is, as soon as you move, people move right up behind you and that makes me feel nervous because I like my personal space and that’s often further out than others.”
However, all of that is relatively minor compared to the young Callum who couldn’t talk to his own family or his best friend on the phone, or who avoided things he loved, like dance because he couldn’t enter the class.