It’s Cool

This week brought several stories about Autistics into the news. I’ve read so many comments on social media about Autism that my head hurts. Why? Because people are arguing and judging things they don’t understand. While none of my contacts has said anything to me, I wonder if some of the commentary applies to me.

Jerry Seinfield stated in an interview he thought he might be Autistic. This has sparked huge debates about diagnosis and “attention seeking” behaviors. Some people seem to feel that the only “true” Autistics are those who are diagnosed by medical professionals and have severe impacts in their lives. Um, yeah. It’s called a spectrum for a reason.

I’d also like to point out that until recently (about the last 15 years), Autism awareness was pretty low. Unless you had classic Autism, with all the severe behaviors associated with classic Autism, you weren’t Autistic. Many people over the age of 35 are just now figuring out why their lives are what they are and it isn’t because of more stringent or even looser diagnostic guidelines. It’s because we’re becoming more aware.

Some of the commentary by non-Autistic “experts” indicates that people who self diagnose are wrong and trying to grab the spotlight. One BCBA flat-out said it should be illegal to self-diagnose. Illegal? I self-diagnose all kinds of things including colds, stomach bugs and other maladies. Thanks to the information that is readily available 24/7/365, people guess at their conditions all the time. Are they wrong? Are they doing something illegal? I think not.

John Elder Robinson is recognized as an Autism expert. He also has Autism. Mr. Robinson was the lone Autistic voice in an organization supposedly dedicated to helping Autistic people. He left that organization in 2013 because of their stance that Autism needed to be cured. Well, and the fact that the big line item in their budget is advertising, not helping Autistics.

In a piece on the blog Psychology Today, Mr. Robinson elaborates on the polarization of the Autism Community. Read the full article here:

Assume you actually clicked out to the article, wouldn’t it be nice if we could just embrace people and not rip them apart? I’d love to know why people are so suspicious of motives when public figures share information. Then I think about me. Here I am, writing this arguably small blog. I’ve outed myself on several topics. I have received comments like “I never would have guessed!” What is my motive? To help people become more aware.

So, there you have it. The more you know, the broader your view of the world. It’s so easy to isolate ourselves. Quick, name 5 of your immediate neighbors! I know I can’t.

It’s cool. We all are busy with our lives. My passions are not your passions. I appreciate people taking the time to read this little blog. I hope you’ll learn something. I hope you won’t judge me too harshly. Most of all, I hope you’ll understand that people are people…deserving respect for their journeys even if you don’t understand their path.

Teach Them When They Are Young

This is a status from one of my social media friends, Francine Maitland Abbot. She asked that we share it far and wide. For those of you following my blog, this is an opportunity for you to help spread awareness. Please re-blog!

Okay please every hang in here for a minute since this is going to be a long post. Please think about it, do it, and share it!

Chris and I went to see Catching Fire on its release weekend. It had been out for 2 days when we decided to go see it. I chose the theater that was showing it with the most viewings and picked a matinée hoping it wouldn’t be crazy packed. We arrive a bit early to the theater and of course it’s busy. I’m in my wheelchair with Rocket at my side while Chris buys our tickets. We go into the theater and I see that EVERY single Handicapped seating area is taken by able-bodied people.

Not just people, but young teenage girls in groups of 4 all texting, giggling, and mowing down popcorn.  That means that 12 seats are taken up that shouldn’t be. The accessible seating at this theater is designed so there is a row entirely set up for the disabled. There are 3 groups of 4 chairs all with a space at each end of them so that the person in a wheelchair (or someone with a walker or unable to do steps or needs easy access to a bathroom) can sit next to their friend or loved one while watching the moving. It also gives space for a Service Dog if one is along. There is space for 4 wheelchairs.

I realize that I will have to repeat the same thing that I had to do last Christmas at a different theater when I asked a man and his son to move over one seat so that I could sit in my designated seating area with my husband and SD. I should NOT have to ask people to do this! I take a look around at all the people, and I can feel the frustration welling up inside of me as I look at the blue wheelchair picture signs that are posted on EVERY SEAT IN THAT ROW clearly marking it as the obvious accessible seating. I can feel Rocket shift next to me eager to get settled, and Chris whispers we better get seated.

So I ask a group of the girls to move, and before they can answer their mother is actually sitting in the next row up and asks me what the problem is. I explain the problem is that I only have ONE choice where I can sit, and they have several other areas to choose from and that they are sitting in a clearly designated section that is not for them, and that I would like them to move. At this point the girls start to get up, but the mother looks unsure if she is okay with this, so I tell her calmly that I can go get a manager if there is going to be a problem. Finally the girls move, and even though everyone in the rows closest to us heard me, none of the others move. I pull in next to the seat Chris is sitting in, and Rocket lays down at my side.

I hear the girls say they didn’t understand why they had to move, and their mother says nothing to them. All I can think is are you freaking serious?! I want to sit with my friend, hold my husband’s hand during a movie, share a drink and snacks just like everyone else does–and I don’t understand why that is such a hard concept. Then I get to thinking about the fact that all of those girls sitting in the accessible row were much too young to drive, and most likely had parents sitting a row or two above just like the ones that I made move. Yet, no responsible adult told them it wasn’t okay to take those spots in the first place (nor even after I loudly stated my misgivings), and that someone else might truly need them.

This makes people with disabilities invisible and only adds to the ignorance that those of us that are disabled have to deal with on a daily basis. If their parents would teach them to respect areas reserved for disabled (whether seating, parking, or bathroom stalls) it would teach them to respect the disability community as a whole.  Then they could learn to appreciate the cultural differences that come along with disability as well, and that we aren’t so different in the ways we want to enjoy and experience life and all it has to offer. It’s no different from them buying a concert ticket or buying a plane ticket with a designated seat number only to find out that someone who didn’t buy that ticket is sitting in your seat, and I’m guessing that wouldn’t be acceptable, they would make them move and claim their seat. The theater workers don’t check or enforce that those areas should remain only used by people who they are there for.

Please think about what I’m saying and SPEAK UP PLEASE if you see an injustice occurring. If you remain silent in a situation like this, you are still taking the side of the person that is in the wrong, use your voice to do some good and see if you don’t feel better about yourself. Spread the concept/word to friends and family, and I implore you to teach your children to respect people of all differences, including disability. Most people would not accept their child bullying another, allowing them to use racial slurs, let them attack someone else’s religion in a hateful manner, or steal–and allowing such apathy and ignorance towards disability is no less of an evil so why tolerate it?

Be a positive role model and pay more attention to your surroundings, trust me it will make a difference to someone! If you don’t think there is truth in what I’m saying, and that America has a LONG, LONG way to go in the area of Disability rights, than you need to open your eyes!

If you would like to share this status, please copy and paste since hitting the share button will only allow mutual friends of ours to see it, anyone on your list that doesn’t crossover on mine won’t be able to view it, which the copy/paste should fix. Just list my name with it please.