Pride: it’s not just for Lions

At a recent Woodstock Book Fest panel about autism, with a great friend of mine (co-founder of a fantastic school, The Center for Spectrum Services) Jamey Wolff as moderator, a question was mentioned to John Elder Robison, the author of Look me in the Eye, about what an autistic leader should have to inspire others.

It honestly gave me a reason to pause and reflect on my life, I know that I’ve often brushed aside the idea of myself being a leader, but the question of being qualified to be one seems to be one that I’ve been answering a lot these past couple of days.

The leaders I’ve been fascinated by always seem to be strong, self assured but aren’t afraid to be firm. The problem with that and Spectrumites I know, myself very much included, need help with self-worth, which includes self esteem and self-confidence.

We always think of others’ needs when we should think of our own needs, wants and desires. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be something we need to work on over time. John Elder Robinson’s answer to the question about Autistic leaders ring true, not only for Spectrumites, but for us all: Don’t look for leaders, be one yourself.

My local parish priest always says that a good leader should lead by example and it’s always been something that stuck with me. I’ve always brushed aside the notion of my being a leader because I’ve seen what power does to those ill-equipped for it: it ends up corrupting them. Napoleon from the Orson Wells satirical tale Animal Farm is one such example of how too much power can be a bad thing and because of that, I’ve always been modest when it comes to power or pride, in that sense.

But, here’s the point I bring up to my fellow Spectrumites, we should be proud in our accomplishments, no matter how large or small, we’ve come a very long way, not just personally as individuals but as a society. It wasn’t so long ago where Spectrumites like us would be put in institutions, where our talents would be lost at worse or go unknown at best. Hearing of the horror stories of people who were institutionalized make me winch, inwardly if not outwardly, but it shows me how lucky I am to be in a caring and thoughtful community.

That’s not to say, however, that we can’t do better. We should be volunteering and helping those less fortunate, we should be speaking up about issues that matter, standing up for the communities we live in, and most importantly, we should be leading by our examples and inspiring people that way. That way we can all do our part to help heal our wounds and help us all….

Shine On!!!

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Standing Up is Hard to do…

Recently, I had to make a tough decision since my last roommate was moving to another apartment. I was worried that I had played a part even as his Mom told me that it wasn’t the case, but I felt, then as now, that it was the best decision to be made for both of us.

The aftermath, though, made it hard for me to decide who would be my next roommate. The pressure of the two people that were chosen made it harder still, especially because both people had good things going for them. For me, it felt like being on Deal or No Deal, the pressure was that intense.

Long story short, this decision made me realize what was important to me, qualities that I have that I need to sees in others. It made me feel like a leader, which as I mentioned in an earlier post, isn’t something I’m used to being called.

More importantly, it made me stand up for myself, something that I feel like I need to do a lot more of. I was becoming another George McFly from Back to the Future and this ordeal was talking to me, forcing me not to be a doormat. It’s been hard to do but I realize now how important standing up for oneself:

  1. Realize Your Limits: Realize that you’re only human and that you can’t please everyone. Focus on your strengths and don’t dwell on your weaknesses.
  2. Take Time For You: Breathe, recharge your batteries (however you choose to do so) and be creative.
  3. Be (or Re-Discover) Yourself: Don’t be afraid to blaze a trail of your own and learn new things. The best people know how to change things to their advantage. This can also be a way for you to rediscover values you may forget in the moment.
  4. Celebrate Your Victories: When you stand up for yourself, especially if you’re used to be a doormat, you’ll feel a change inside yourself. Celebrate the changes, no matter how small.
  5. Build Up: When you become stronger, one day at a time, one victory at a time, you’ll find yourself stronger over time and that will build up your confidence.

I can’t say that this change will be easy to deal with, in fact this is could be harder than you’ve ever dealt with. But standing up will indeed be the most fulfilling thing you ever do in your life and you’ll become stronger and be able to push forward to your brighter future, one where we can all….

Shine On!!!

Answer: It gives me purpose to my life…

That’s the short answer to the question I thought about ever since I watched the movie, Leap. It’s a tale of two French orphans who want to achieve their respective dreams. One wants to be an inventor, the other (the focus of the story) wants to be a dancer.

The question that clinches it is raised in the climax at the movie is one that gave me pause..

“Why do you dance?”

One way that I could change it for me is if the question became “Why do I write?”

I write in order to share my story; because our stories are an important part of our lives. I write my poetry in order to articulate what goes on inside my mind. I write to honor my friends, family and the people I consider near and dear to me. I write to be myself, free; creative and articulate. I write to make sure that my life matters, both here and long term.

My ability to solve visual rebuses has served me well in my life so much so that I often times considered myself the Autistic version of Alton Brown. The reason why might be attributed to the fact that I try to solve a rebus that I (and Spectrumites like me) know all too well: the ability to think in pictures in such a way so neurotypicals can understand. It can be a struggle at times but the struggle is so worth it.

So many people don’t realize how differences can be a good thing, but the thing is that they feel like differences (opinions, schools of thought, cultures, etc) are the things that divide us, but there is good things in variety, if life has taught us nothing else, it’s that life is fulfilling with variety.

Before going further, I feel the need to stress that the contrast between now and then. We are so lucky that our stories are being told with the help of social media. Fifty years ago, people with disabilities were put inside institutions and life was not great and morale was dismal, to put it mildly. Opportunities were non existent and what we have right now, the rights we have right now were considered luxuries.

Sharing our stories, our passions, the reason why we all do what we do is something that means so much right now, not just in this time in history but also in April, Autism Acceptance Month, a time that we can all…so consider the question, “Why do you do what you do?” and let the answer help you, as it does for us all..

Shine On!!

The Start of a Great Month!!

Well, well, well, it’s that time of year, one where two passions of mine collide in a once a year meeting of poetic and spectral proportions.

It’s April 1st, a date that starts both National Autism Awareness Month and National Poetry Month, two things that (if you’ve been reading my Super-Blog for a year) means so much to me. Autism is something that I deal with everyday of my life and poetry is the way that I first discovered my voice, which I’ve not been shy in using ever since.

I feel so lucky; fortunate and blessed to be as high- functioning as I am, that being said, I feel as if the need of Autism Awareness vs. Autism Acceptance has been unbalanced as of late. What I mean by that I mean is that Awareness means acknowledgement of what a person has whereas Acceptance means understanding; getting to know a person as a person.

To put it another way, Kassiane S, from the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (via the following link: http://autisticadvocacy.org/2012/04/acceptance-vs-awareness/) says in her article, Awareness vs Acceptance, that the difference between Awareness and Acceptance is:

 …creating a sense of urgency and fear. Awareness efforts present us as a problem to be solved, and yesterday. Awareness operates in stereotypes and soundbites, not real people. Awareness has no substance; it is but a tool to earn more money to fix us and to promote yet more awareness.

She goes onto say that..

To accept us, people first need to acknowledge us as individuals-as three dimensional, growing, developed characters. We are not all the same, and we are not but a collection of deficits…

With that said, acceptance requires understanding on both parts, where communication can make the difference between progress and brushing aside our own preconceived notions about the other side, as she further states,

Acceptance requires facing that which makes you uncomfortable about us, thinking about why it makes you uncomfortable, and confronting any prejudice at the root of that discomfort.

Acceptance of autistic people, like acceptance of pretty much all people, involves moving past surface impressions. It involves trying to understand us, trying to know who we are, not just what our operating system is.

Acceptance is a two way street but for Spectrumites, it’s something that is so very much needed to break away from the norms that we deal with everyday. Autistic pride is another topic I wish to discuss later on, but acceptance is s great first step to help us all….

Shine On!!