When I think of ‘the future’ I find it difficult not to drift off into realms of science fiction where mutants are the ones who win the day. Mutants, or mutations, are those who are less than perfect, less than ‘normal’. They are the population in the movies who didn’t turn out right and are banished to live a life in the caves below the earth’s surface. Or, they are those who have ‘powers’ that enable them to fly, to become invisible or to rescue others and be the secret hero that everyone speaks of, but no one has seen.
I have often thought of myself as a mutant. When reading social information that is exchanged between people proves rather difficult to do, one might result to other means of expression and communication. My social skills, when amidst others who do not share my interests, are off line for me. However, this can be different when connections are formed and I am ‘plugged in’. For example, there is the scenario where the autistic teenagers start a computer club during the lunch break at school. Very soon, these same autistic teens, who struggle in most social contexts, are being looked up to by their peers because they ‘see’ the teens ‘computing’ abilities which then open doors to acceptance. It shouldn’t be this way, the valuing of value which is seen to be of value, but, at least they were given the opportunity.
I know I have skills and abilities but, not everyone sees this ‘me’. I lived my life, forever is how it felt, like someone who was invisible. On one occasion after I had delivered a presentation on autism and learning, I took the lift to leave the building. There was a lady in the lift, who said to my companion, “…did you hear that speaker, they were really good weren’t they” She was speaking of me, I, who was standing next to her, but she didn’t see me.
In ‘the future’ I very much wish to be part of, I hope that all of us, who seem so invisible, will become known, valued and necessary. In the film ‘Avatar’ the saying the indigenous use between one another when they meet is: ‘I see you.’ The first time I heard that expression I cried. How marvelous to be seen and be welcome.
Inclusion isn’t about including us all equally it’s about including us all differently. It’s our differences that add so much color to the world. It’s our differences that place an over view of how something can be seen in a way which gives a project its edge or a meal its flavor.
I know ‘difference’ can feel scary and, as humans, we are more at home with what we know. But, if no-one took any risks and if no-one made any steps to bridge the gaps between the known and the unknown, new frontiers would never have been conquered and we wouldn’t have maps of the world, of DNA, or of aspects of the brain.
I long to see a future where, as an autistic, I don’t have to apologize for needing to take certain steps to care for my sensory disposition. It should be usual for music in a restaurant to be played less loudly and for lights to be less bright. I’m looking forward to a future where it’s usual to listen to someone, but no-one thinks it’s odd if you don’t look at them while you listen. In this future it’s also usual for individuals to wear ear defenders, weighted garments, or/and use figit toys to aid concentration.
The essence of who I am, in the future I hope for, will reflect personal change and growth. There will be many humans who are asexual, gender fluid, intersex people and this is just as acceptable as being tall, short, fair or dark, male or female. So, for me all that’s usual and valued is a constant that looks toward the seasons of those elements which encourage life, rather than some traditions which stifle it. When I was at school gaining ‘a pen license’ was almost out of reach for me due to being dyslexic and dyspraxic. It was only after being given access to a keyboard, where each letter was beautifully formed and remained intact each time I used it, that my reading and writing strengths flourished. Technology is so enabling for so many, I’m glad in the future I wish for technology is common place and equals out the obstacles, allowing a more level playing field, for all.
I woke up this morning to a dawn chorus of rich bird song that almost deafened me. I bathed in its intensity and put off making my coffee for a few more minutes. I didn’t want to move into the kitchen, and away from the bedroom, because I didn’t want to miss a moment of hearing the music. ‘Why is it that these sounds, very loud and full on, are not hurting my ears’ I have often wondered this. I’ve been in St. Kilda (Australia) and I’ve stood in the middle of a lorikeet feeding frenzy with the rainbow bursts of colour flapping wildly and noisily over me (a bit like the pigeons used to in Trafalgar Square, but without the noisiness) and been lost in a magical place so consuming its orgasmic. Yet, passers-by hurry on because ‘the din’ is overwhelming. The reason I can do this, when usually my ears are over sensitive to sound (I need the television on with the volume turned down almost too low for most to hear it) is because birds are a passion of mine. I constantly marvel at their unique abilities. The Brown Thorn Bill, who frequents my garden, can copy the bird calls of those which threaten a variety of predators. Its call can be thought of as ‘it’s hawk song.’ Yet, this small, common brown bird, tinged with yellow, is so sparrow like it’s dismissed by many who never take the time to ‘see’ it.
In the future, as I would like to see it, the qualities of the most common, the most unassuming, that which some might not give a second look to, these are the things I want others to notice. It might be within the mundane, the unexpected, that we will find life’s richest rewards.
Sometimes it might feel like a burden, a weight too heavy to endure, but, weights build muscle and muscle enables movement and activity. Disability is far too often coded in monetary terms and many are quick to mention the ‘costs’ of autism. I was taught that the things in life worth fighting for tended to come at a cost. ‘No pain, no gain’ some will say. Yes, sometimes life does feel overwhelming and beyond me, then I give myself a break. Caring for one’s self and for others is costly. However, the rewards really can outweigh these costs. If we do nothing and continue with the status quo we maybe feeding into weighting those weights in a manner not productive to building hope, energy and good outcomes. Changing our thinking into a more accepting, active awareness, that actions weighting towards using our strengths and interests to connect us to life and learning, is a better way to go. This is the future I want to see.
Life on earth is but a moment caught within the crease of time,
The seasons come and go again,
You have your life, and I have mine.
The seed that’s planted within the ground
Cannot choose what to become.
A potato, an apple or a rose for some.
However, for it to be the very best,
It needs rich soil, not poor.
The sun and the rains must come,
To open that seed’s door.
I may be born to nourish others,
I may delight the senses.
I may grow tall,
I may grow small,
I may stay stunted beneath wire fences.
My future may not depend on my stock,
So much as it does upon sources.
Sources of warmth, sources of care
I depend on the nurture to be for me there.
Then I can blossom and sing with the birds,
Then I can grow my potential.
So plant me in goodness and all that is fine,
Please keep the intruders away.
Give me a chance to develop, in time,
To become who I am, in life’s future, one day.
Lawson, W. (2006) ASPoetry, JKP: London, UK.