AUTISTIC LINCS: By autistic author Callum Brazzo
This week was World Autism Awareness Week (March 26 to April 2) with World Autism Awareness Day tomorrow (Monday) as well,
You will probably read a lot about Awareness Days, Autism Hours and Autism Friendly Screenings.
Last week we discussed positions of power and utilising those positions to realise autistic people’s potential and do what is in their interests.
Over the course of our column so far, we have established that autism is in the brain, not to be cured, and that being autistic is a spectrum of communication. It is with these principles in mind that I hope to empower you and guide best practice on how to maximise your World Autism Awareness Week and Month.
For younger autistic people, it is imperative to nurture a positive sense of identity and this means working WITH what may be seen as an ‘obsession,’ for example, fish; and getting the most practical use out of it. You can count with fish therefore opening a path for mathematic skills. You can decorate cardboard fish (or any other material), therefore opening a path for artistic skills. You can place social situations within the realm of a fish tank, therefore opening a path for social skills.
To reiterate a point in Talking About Past And Present (Free Press, March 13), rather than shaming them because of what many see as narrow-mindedness, it is about putting emphasis on productive ways forward embracing the tools of communication that autistic people more often than not can give you.
Of course, younger people grow up and for autistic teenagers, it can be daunting to be in a world that the majority does not see through a rainbow filter. Entering adulthood, we may feel scared of, overloaded with, the world and all its sensory and social chaos. That’s why we need to feel safe.
If we don’t look you in the eyes, it can actually be because it is physically painful for us.
At home, if we stim or have a ‘self-stimulatory’ behaviour, it is normally completely safe and natural and in cases where, for example, we are banging our heads against a wall to regulate our sensory world, perhaps replace a wall with a pillow or redirect from the offending environment.
In public, explain that you are here to help and ask ‘What do you need’ or something similar because at this point, we are probably already overloaded with our rainbow filter and we would rather not have social norms to ‘act normal’ imposed upon us. These norms invalidate our autistic identities.
A quick note about autism-friendly screenings. These are films made with autistic people viewed as the core audience. This could mean having the lights on during the film or perhaps the ability to roam in the cinema. Such reasonable adjustments ensure autistic people can express their autistic identities. But in truth, please think beyond the days, weeks, hours and months because being autistic is lifelong and our robust commitment to making autistic people safe, happy and maximised individuals should be too.