Thursday, 2 April 2015

World Autism Day 2015

Wearing purple for World Autism
Day today

Finally. World Autism Day 2015.

It's been a day of substituting a teal spring jacket for two hoodies. Wearing as much violet as I can. Noticing the CN Tower reflect 8:30 AM rays. Noticing that its glass windows reflect blue in the daytime. Other than that, it feels it is an ordinary day. Lectures, tutorials, email inboxes, twitter feeds, excitement that a train I boarded today had a a different subway chime . . . Yet Toronto's own Mark Saunders has tweeted to Autism Speaks. Yesterday had I looked south on my commute home from an evening tutorial, I might have seen the steel needlepoint-and-disc-shaped tower and its blue photons. I imagine it wouldn't have been a pleasant view. I therefore address each of you today.

To those that are Autistic, there is nothing wrong with you. Having Autism demonstrates that you are awesome. Let's combine this further and call you 'awetsome.' Maybe you can't look a person in the cornea. Maybe you don't use your voice to speak. Maybe you have a hearing sensitivity so strong that you couldn't concentrate on your studies on the bus for two minutes because several loud teenagers boarded the bus. In the long run they are not your weaknesses but your strengths. For example, my hearing sensitivity gives me the ability to work with the songs I like on my musical keyboard. Your talents, passions and qualities therefore do not make you part of an endemic or a pandemic, but humanity. Today I celebrate you.

To those that aren't Autistic but support Autistic individuals for whom we are, give yourself a pat on the back. (Or if you're not comfortable with patting yourself on the back, go buy yourself some non-Lindt chocolate.) Autism acceptance does not take only one Autistic or one person, but both Autistics and non-Autistics to manifest to reality. I am grateful to have witnessed such a reality in several people. Thank you for smiling at our strengths and regarding our weaknesses as traits to complement our personalities rather than hindrances to our lives. You make the world a better place to be. Keep it up.

To those of you that believe Autism is an illness to be cured, it is time to identify the neurons in your head synapsing "illness," "disease," "pandemic," "epidemic," "cure," "hopeless," "incompassionate," and "missing" and halt your synapse in their tracks. Begin the electric potential in the neurons which recognize words such as "talented," "complete," "person," "diverse," and the phrase "worth it." Do you believe your negativity raises awareness? Think again. It only propagates hatred for something which need not be disliked. They say two negatives make a positive, but negative-one subtract one only makes negative two. It's time you learned to add.

To those of you that hear upon curing on your SONY or Panasonic screens, your iPhone showing your local newspaper
Union Station on the Yonge-University-Spadina

(whether it be the Toronto Star, CBC or otherwise) or just walked past the Geneva Centre for Autism on an ordinary day in Toronto, and have neither internalized Autism positivity nor negativity, you have two choices. First, you can see us as disorders. Those that will never fit into society. A person that will not say "I love you" to a mother and maybe cannot love. A child whose social skills are at the point that she knows the stations on Toronto's Yonge-University-Spadina line more than she knows her own classmates. Is it worth a trip down the YUS to Geneva? A teenager who can't stand movies because she's too sensitive for their violence and how in the world is she going to survive a university program where one is repeatedly warned to never break a bridge? Yet you have another choice, and that is to understand us as human beings rather than assume us as collections of failure. The person that couldn't communicate using sound could still communicate, for the person had emotions and social media. (Only the tip of the iceberg to non-verbal communication.) The child that didn't say "I love you" felt it. The subway-loving child grew up to reroute her commute the night a station on her route closed and shuttle bus lineups packed the station. The adult who found friends that understood her including one that asked that the volume be turned down in a loud restaurant so both could enjoy a falafel plate. You have the choice to build or hinder a community of Autism digintiy, of Autism acceptance.

In fact you all have the choice - and potential - to build or hinder such a community. In such a community it is time to become an architect.

- FA

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