Autism Awareness – Meh!

I don’t want you to be aware – I want you to treat Autistic people equally.

It’s autism awareness week and I have to confess that I’m finding it tough. I’ve endured radio discussions where neurotypical experts displaying a sympathetic therapeutic attitude to the subjects of their research (Autists in the workplace) without including any #actualltyautistic people in the conversation.

This is the perfect example of the kinds of micro-aggressions and deficit thinking that exist around Autism. Whilst there are young people of my Neurotribe who need help to get into work, this is not the kind of work that will level the playing field.

These are the truths that must be understood:

  • Autism wasn’t invented, it has always been there, just not recognised.
  • I don’t have needs.
  • I don’t live with Autism – I am Autistic.
  • I like being Autistic. Don’t feel sorry for me.
  • I dislike the woolly thinking and poor processes inherent in the world of the Neurotypical types.
  • I tell the truth, I serve it up raw and uncooked. I’m not sorry about that.
  • I see patterns and identify flaws in processes because of my intensely logical mind, and I do it much faster than most people.
  • I expect acceptance of my strengths and weaknesses like every other employee, real equality.
  • I don’t want your awareness, I want equality.

Apparently, only 1 in 5 diagnosed people are in employment. This is a terrible endictment of the world in which we live. However it is only the tip of the iceberg. Given the structural bias of the school system against Autsitic People, its hardly a shock that they are so disenfranchised and traumatised by the time they leave education that they are unemployable in terms of qualifications, especially those identifying as PDA.

Here’s why:

  1. The number of children with Autism and a diagnosis is actually just the tip of the iceberg . That’s because you had to be really obviously autistic in order to get a diagnosis in what is a very poor process.
  2. The group of adults with a late diagnosis is also relatively small, usually following a mid life crisis or the earlier mis-diagnosis of other mental health issues.
  3. The biggest group of Autists have yet to be identified many of these undiagnosed autistic adults have held down perfectly good careers, often blighted by periods of bullying or mental Heath episodes now understood as autistic burnout, they may well have children who are more obviously autistic.

Here’s my manifesto for properly including Autistic people in the workplace:

If you need to make reasonable adjustments for Autistic people, your company isn’t very good and you can save a fortune by employing Autisic people, particularly those with PDA to streamline your business and cut out all the pointless ritual and nonsense.

  1. Performance management targets should be co-created with the employee and have clear unambiguous explanations about what is expected of the employee. There should be monthly check ins so that end of year meetings in which everyone knows the outcome before it begins.
  2. Build an office and culture which is inclusive of introverts, one where your ability to engage in the criac does not define your ability to progress.
  3. Ask every employee about the kind of things they need in order to optimise their performance at work.
  4. Recognise that if an Autistic employee becomes obstructive uncooperative in meetings, then they are in trauma, treat them with compassion, recognising that they have been triggered, don’t escalate the situation and make it a disciplinary issue.
  5. Only arrange meetings that are useful avoid rituals.
  6. Make decisions with people, not for people.

You should do these because it is a better way to do business and will make more profit by building better stuff more efficiently.

The inescapable truth is that autistic people make things better for everyone, because we have such an intense experience of the world. We feel thew things that others simply don’t notice.

The words of Harry Thompson on bookface today:

“”The only thing I am “aware” of this month, is damaging, dated, and misrepresentative perceptions of ‘Autism’. ‘Autism’ doesn’t exist anyway (it is abstract and intangible as a concept). Autistic people DO exist. Understanding and acceptance, in terms of what is required from society, absolutely dwarf the issue of “awareness”.

Autistic people may be a minority but we are unavoidable. Business owners are likely to have Autistics clients and customers and perhaps employees at some point in their careers. Teachers are likely to have Autistic students at some point in their careers. Doctors and Nurses are likely to have Autistic patients at some point in their careers.
Simply being aware that they are Autistic isn’t enough – they have to know what to expect, and what to do, and how to treat them. That takes UNDERSTANDING and ACCEPTANCE.

We have to occupy this planet with allistic people, and therefore, “awareness” is insufficient. One may not feel obliged to either understand or accept the things they are aware of.

Plenty of non-Autistic people are aware of us. This is not enough. They are not incentivised to go further. But they have a moral duty to understand us and accept us because we live in the same world and coexist under the same governments and laws.

Not only is awareness insufficient, but non-Autistic organisations who peddle this notion want you to be aware of the wrong things – which are either irrelevant to our community values or destructive to our way of life and very existence.

We don’t want a month of Neurotypical mischaracterisations of what we want and need. Acceptance and Understanding of Autistic people should be happening All year round!””