I’ve been avoiding twitter since news began to break that Adam Lanza, the shooter at the school in Newtown, Connecticut, may have been autistic.
Let me explain that I have been diagnosed for less than a year. One of the things I have already learned is that there are a great many ignorant people out there who are ready to tell anyone who will listen about causes, treatments and cures for autism. I’ve had people call me names too. I’m used to those things; it’s sad, but I expect that behaviour. What I did not expect and took me genuinely by surprise, was the massive backlash against people with Asperger’s Syndrome or High Functioning Autism.
I felt totally overwhelmed by what I was reading and hearing. I worried in case my friends were reading the same things as me and wondering if I was dangerous. I always feel a certain amount of shame when I melt because I always think that I should be able to control it. Lack of control. That can’t be good, right?
I knew that the shooting would likely be a topic of conversation at work. What should I do if I heard people talking about the shooting and saying things about aspies that weren’t true? Should I keep my head down or should I speak up and maybe reveal to everyone that I am one of those people? I am always totally honest when I am asked about being autistic, it is not something I try to hide, but it is also not something that I broadcast. The people I work with who need to know do. The people I trust to know do. And the people from work who follow me on twitter know also. They don’t necessarily know all of my triggers, symptoms and stims, but they at least know enough to be able to work with me and meet me half way on things.
Then things got surreal. There were Facebook pages being started that were dedicated to the elimination of aspies. Statements like “When this picture gets 50 likes we’ll go and burn an Asperger’s kid.”. What the hell? I went from being overwhelmed that people would be scared of me to being scared of people. Not just on my behalf, but also for the little aspies at school who likely already found school to be a matter of survival. I know it only takes one idiot to start a page like that, but believe me that sentiment was being expressed to varying degrees in alarming numbers.
Then today someone managed to pull me briefly in to a conversation (monologue) on American gun laws and why people with mental illness shouldn’t have guns. I started to explain that autism wasn’t a mental illness and then I realised I just wanted out of the conversation.
And so now this is where we are. Not for the first time I wondered about removing the word aspie from my twitter bio. But it is me, I am it and I haven’t done anything wrong. I’m certainly not giving in to some Minority Report pre-cog bull shit. Show me where there is a link between planned violence and autism. Then we can talk. Until that point, I guess we just work towards repairing the damage done to the image of aspies.
After thought: I listen to hip hop, I watch wrestling on TV, I like UFC, I’ve seen every single episode of CSI, I got full colours at school in shooting, I have a shaved head, wear hoodies and baggy jeans. I have a full time job, I don’t drink and I’ve never had so much as a parking ticket. I am quiet, kind and gentle. The only time I get stopped by the police it’s because they wonder how someone my age can afford such a nice car. I am far more likely to back away from a threat than fight. Mind fuck, huh?