7:29pm: So I’m sat in a café, ready to start my university assignment that is due in 5 days.
I start my usual routine. I turn off all of my devices, I get my infinity cube out and put it on the table, and I get all of the relevant Power Point slides and notes loaded up on my laptop.
Oh wait, music. I can’t concentrate without my music.
I can’t listen to my usual music when I need to concentrate, so I decided to look on YouTube for something appropriate.
I then proceeded to put on one of the most amazing pieces of music I have heard, which inspired me to write this. You can listen to the song here.
I’m thinking back to Sunday. I went for a carvery with one of my mini mates, a non-speaking autistic boy who I care a lot for, plus his mum and some of their friends. He is very sensory and likes sipping his drink and spitting back into his cup. He was doing this in peace but then everyone’s attention turned to him. He noticed, paused for a moment, then burst out laughing. So did everyone else. He then started doing some fancy spitting tricks to impress everyone, and no one stopped laughing, including himself. In those few minutes, there was nothing else that mattered in the world. Everyone was happy and it was beautiful.
I’m thinking back to Saturday. I went swimming with some of the kids at work. We were in our own world – fighting each other and transforming into ninjas, Pokémon, random memes and more. No one stopped smiling, and it didn’t matter what anyone else was thinking, as we were all enjoying the moment together.
I’m thinking back to Wednesday, when I received lots of positive feedback and support when I revealed that I am autistic through my first blog post. I was relieved that people have accepted me for who I am and I had a huge smile on my face.
I’m feeling grateful for the great times I have had, and the great times these children have had too. Life isn’t that bad is it?
7:55pm: Then the negative thoughts start to creep in.
This isn’t how it always is.
In those individual moments, everything was perfect. We all accepted each other for who we were. We could block out the world, and we could enjoy each other’s company.
But my mini mate won’t always be in an environment where everyone accepts him and cares a lot about him, as much as it hurts to say.
It won’t always be acceptable to have Pokémon battles in the middle of a swimming pool. These kids will eventually grow up and will be judged unless they conform and hide themselves behind ‘the mask’.
People have told me that they are happy I have opened up about myself, but what about the others who haven’t? My mum doesn’t accept that I am different, and expects me to do what she wants me to. If I don’t, I am not good enough for her…
Right now, I am not good enough for her.
These moments are brief and don’t last. I wish I could stop time so that the happy moments would last forever where there is no judgement from outsiders, where it didn’t matter what other people think and where everyone could be happy.
8:05pm: I try to get back to reality.
I have an assignment due soon that I can’t face completing. I want more time to rest and recharge after my recent burnout.
Why am I at university anyway? Oh yes, because my mum forced me to go. I am now over £40,000 in debt, and super stressed just for my name on a piece of paper.
‘You need a degree so that you can get a good job and make lots of money, then buy a nice house and a car’.
‘You need a good job and a nice house so that you can be happy and so I can be proud of how far you have come’.
But I don’t want any of that.
I am happy right now. Why can’t the world just stay how it is?
Why can’t I put the world on pause and let each and every positive moment last forever?
A good job, a nice house and a car won’t make me happy.
What would make me truly happy in the future would be to wake up with a smile on a face knowing that I am accepted for who I am. I want to be able to freely go to the library all day and read books and learn about the world. I want it to be ok to not want to socialise, and to be able to just walk through the countryside on my own, or to spend hours playing a game with no pressure to work or study. I want a world where I tell my mum everything about me, and she says she still loves me no matter what.
But I don’t just want a world where I can be happy being me. I want a world where others can be happy being themselves too. The only reason I am at university right now is because I dream of being a sensory occupational therapist, who can help autistic children who are struggling in a world that isn’t made for them. But it takes years of irrelevant learning and exams to be able to start the sensory modular pathway. Why is this piece of paper so important? University life consists of reading books, and answering questions based on the books. I have read most of these books, why can’t that be enough?
I want a world where I can see people running through the street, flapping their hands, and spinning in circles, with no glares or judgemental looks. I want a world where people listen to you and respect what you say. I want a world where people ask “How can I help?” rather than saying “You need to act your age” or “He just needs a spanking”. I want a world where everyone is accepted.
8:25pm: There is too much hate in the world.
I hear about parents trying to cure their children of autism by shoving bleach down their throats (this is still happening in the UK today). I hear about parents loving their children, but ‘hating their autism’. I see children in ABA therapy being forced to conform and subliminally being taught that being themselves is not ok.
I see schools saying autistic children are a problem, and trying to move them to other schools so they don’t have to deal with them. I hear about autistic children being miserable due to being bullied and mistreated. I speak to autistic people who are on the verge of killing themselves because they have to hide themselves, and use all of their energy to try and fit in. Imagine living your whole life knowing you’re not good enough?
There is one word that is key to all of this. Not just the happiness and joy, but also all of the pain and suffering. That word is acceptance.
Autistic people need to learn how to accept themselves. Self-acceptance is key to a happy and prosperous life. But you play a role in this. Without the acceptance of family members, without understanding and acceptance from school or work, while an autistic person is a ‘person with autism’, which essentially neglects their identity, they aren’t being helped to accept themselves.
The ideal world for autistic people is one where they are accepted by everyone, with all of their strengths, differences and flaws. Right now, we are a long way off. Self-acceptance and acceptance in your own network and little groups is the best we can get. This isn’t perfect, but it is the best we can have, and this is enough for autistic people to be reasonably happy. Every autistic person, parent and professional should strive for this. Autistic people don’t need autism awareness, they need autism acceptance. In the long term, hopefully everyone will learn to accept not just autism, but all differences.
For now, it doesn’t matter if you or your child doesn’t fit in with societies expectations. This shouldn’t be a barrier to your happiness. Autistic people, be yourselves. Parents, allow your children to be themselves and thrive by embracing them and showing them that you are there for them no matter what.
The world is horrible and people are awful. Innocent autistic children who come into this world with hope and love don’t deserve mistreatment and cruelty. Every individual autistic child is perfect and beautiful and deserves kindness and respect. Why does the world have to be the way it is?
I’m not sure if we will ever get to a point where everyone is accepted for who they are, but wouldn’t that be ideal…
9:12: Wait, don’t I have an assignment due on Monday?
*presses the publish button*