Let’s turn the page and write a new chapter
In his weekly Autistic Lincs column, autistic author Callum Brazzo discusses National Novel Writing Month.
As we enter into November, there is an array of monthly awareness initiatives to explore.
My main focus for this column will be National Novel Writing Month.
Why? Because what we write about autistic and otherwise neurodivergent people doesn’t just stay on the page. It gets lived out through practice.
The books we read in educational settings determines OUR education so it is imperative that we focus on authentic and empowered sources of information.
Let me explain what I mean.
Authentic is to mean using the experiences of those we are looking to educate ourselves on.
In this case, it means asking autistic people about our own experiences. But the path to doing that relies on a key step in order to get there:
Simple in theory but when put against the idea of ‘functioning labels,’ people will often ignore the fact that particularly autistic people CAN communicate if we have the right tools/environment. When we presume competence, we can then connect more effectively.
Starting from the foundation that communication is a spectrum enables us to see autistic and ND voices as valuable. Again, it should be obvious that we are valuable but when books, texts and therefore the people that read and share these books tell us stories of ‘grieving for your child,’ ‘high/low-functioning’ and other such norm-enforcing narratives, then it becomes a battle.
A battle of parent vs autistic person. A battle of teacher vs parent.
Finally, I want to explain what I mean by ‘empowered.’
This is a state of being that I would describe as people who have had authentic sources of information, positive autistic community feedback for example, throughout their life and feel PROUD to be autistic.
They feel defined by their autistic identity. Not shamed and blamed for it.
Because being autistic DOES define us. And that’s okay.
It does not confine us, however. We are not confined by norm-enforcing narratives that set us up to fail.
Instead, we need to break the mold of monotony and actually appreciate humankind for all its brain variation. And how do we do that?
Through books. Through novels. Through stories of successful and thriving autistic people, autistic people tangibly making a contribution to the world.
Autistic people’s contributions to the world being seen, felt, heard, VALIDATED.
Autistic people being autistic people. Stimming with joy.
Stimming under stress and being consoled in positive ways not shunned from society.
These may seem like crazy aims but I’m really not saying all that much.
Autistic people are authentic. But an empowered autistic person takes time.
We have been beaten down, literally and metaphorically for our differences for too long and that has turned many of us bitter. And the bitterness eats away at us from the inside out.
This National Novel Writing Month, help us turn the page. Write a new chapter.