Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Awareness of what?

"Autism Awareness" has a bad name around here. I cringe when I hear it, visions of puzzle pieces swirling in my head. Somehow awareness has become code for tragedy and plague rhetoric. The word has been so thoroughly usurped by cure groups, it has no positive connotation left for most of us who are autistic.

Teddy Willis doesn't know that yet, he's only eleven. Teddy has AS, and is an autistic activist. The young man was silenced by his teacher and principal, told that autism is "personal" and shouldn't be talked about. He didn't understand why he shouldn't talk about it, especially during Autism Awareness Month, especially during a class where the subject of autism was being addressed. I don't understand that either.

This reminds me of Amanda's definition from the Curebie Bingo game:
Curebie (n.): a person who wants nothing more than to teach child autistics to talk and adult autistics to shut up.

Welcome, Teddy, to the community of autistic adults. I read about Teddy here this morning. Since his school tried to censor him, some bloggers have decided to help him spread the word. Listen to Teddy here; he has a different take on the concept of awareness.


  1. This is what he said to at the school board meeting last night. (from Teddy's mom).

    Thank you for allowing me to speak to the school board.

    My name is Teddy Willis. I am 11 years old and I’m a fifth grader at Goodnoe Elementary school. The month of April is autism awareness month. Autism awareness is very important to me because I am a person with autism. I would like more people to understand my disability about having trouble with social skills. If they did that then I wouldn’t be the least popular kid at Goodnoe and I would just be like everybody else.

    Kids at school are sometimes mean to me. They do things like get me out first on purpose so that I get really upset. I tried to tell the kids about autism last week but the teacher wouldn’t let me. I don’t think that was fair but this week I was able to say a few sentences about autism during morning meeting. If people understood more about my disability then maybe they wouldn’t be mean to me. Maybe they would see the good things about me. I want to have friends like everybody else and I want to play with other students without getting picked on because of my disability.

    Telling people more about autism would probably help.

    Thank you.

    Does anybody have any questions about autism?

  2. It's great to see a kid assert them self. Yes, it seems the autism narrative is currently controlled by the "caretakers" on not by the autistics themselves. Even now, several years later it seems like an uphill battle for autistics to reclaim it, yet I think it's possible, but we seem outnumbered by the loud self-pitying voices.

    I'm all about awareness. Proper awareness, not the propaganda of comiserators, big pharma and curebies.

    But I'm not yet about awareness about my own condition and having it to a hostile human resources department and bosses that would still to this day see me as negatively impacting the bottom line because of what otherwise would be reasonable accommodations. Bean counters and process managers still hate us, lets face it, and bullying comes in different shapes and sizes. When it is a large corporation trying to push you out through dwelling on what they don't like like hand-flapping, stimming, rocking or what have you in the work place. It seems to be an NT personality contest, and not one of true meritocracy. If they weren't so darnt biased they could see that it is actually possible for us to positively affect the bottom line. But NTs appear to have a blindness about this and still see us as an odd burden which is why, in my workplace, at least, I've chosen to keep my mouth shut about it. Outside the workplace I can be more myself. Inside the workplace I've seen too many perfectly good people get fired for simply being themselves. But of course, it is I the autistic that seems to have a more open mind regarding what constitutes perfectly good people.

    I really hope these attitudes change within my generation.


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