I had just finished some household chores and was about to sit down to get some writing done.
Me: Okay, I know I should work on my blog but I really want to finish that chapter of my novel that’s been giving me so much trouble.
News podcast I was listening to: AUTISM!
Me: Blog it is.
* * * * *
I’m sure there’s a name for it – that thing where, for instance, if you’re pregnant all of a sudden hey when did EVERYONE become pregnant? You feel as if there’s no way you wouldn’t have noticed so many expectant uteri before your own became a construction zone. There must be an upswing in numbers! This isn’t just you!
And of course the answer is: yeah, it is. It really is just you taking an unprecedented interest in the subject.
So I’m trying to take a deep breath and be a rational human being and oh dear gawd now that I’ve started doing the research and am cautiously seeking a formal diagnosis of autism EVERYONE is talking about autism. News podcasts. Magazine articles. Advice columns. The comics section of the Sunday paper, for corn’s sake. And that’s just in the past few weeks! This can’t be a coincidence! Everybody really is–
No, okay, they’re not. Not anymore than usual. It’s just hitting home in a way that it didn’t used to.
* * * * *
I guess I should be glad the neurotypical world is talking about us at all.
But – do I have to?
Recently, “Non Sequitur,” a comic strip I otherwise adore featured an autistic character. I know you’re going to be shocked, but – oh my gosh! what??? – the character was a preadolescent nonverbal white boy whose powers of imagination are literally magical!
I’m sure he’ll show up again someday. Probably when one of the NT characters has a tricky math problem that needs solving.
The podcast I mentioned up top, the one that derailed my plans for the morning, was NBC Nightly News. They featured a segment about hiring people with autism. They came down firmly on the side of “yeah, DO that.”
Okay. Good. Saying that unemployment rates among the autistic population are “high” is like saying that you heard somewhere that the ocean might be wet but you’re waiting for additional information.
And by the way, we’re not talking about the autistic people like my younger brother, the folks who are literally incapable of taking basic care of themselves let alone holding down a job. We’re talking an 85% unemployment rate among autistic people who have university degrees.
So, okay. Good for NBC. Get the word out there.
Sure, I found the segment squirmarific. But I’m the snarky one who always fast-forwards through NBC’s “Inspiring America” segment. That’s on me, not on NBC. Plenty of people – nice people, good people, people who are a lot more fun to hang out with than I am –love feel-good stories.
And yes, I’m one of those people who loathes any hint that I should be grateful any time my group isn’t actively being treated like garbage. I’m a woman who grew up hearing that what we now call sexual harassment was actually “just a compliment!” I was a couch-homeless minor who was repeatedly told that I should be glad anyone was willing to give me a roof over my head – something I didn’t hear other sixteen-year-olds being told. I’m an autistic person who can’t get away from Facebook-feed warnings that vaccinating children will – horrors! – make them autistic.
I have always sought refuge in books, and was delighted to find Mary Garth in Middlemarch. Mary is cute rather than beautiful, intelligent and unwealthy, and forced to work for very little pay as nurse to a cranky rich man. Her defining characteristic is “a strong current of gratitude towards those who, instead of telling her that she ought to be contented, did something to make her so.”
I realize I was staggering under an unwieldy amount of baggage when I gritted my teeth and listened to the whole damned NBC segment on Autistic People – Just Like Humans, Only Cuter. I realize that, yes, unfortunately, neurotypical people really do mostly only know negative stereotypes and it’s important for them to hear a business owner enthusiastically endorse hiring autistic people.
If I flinch at hearing my group described as “the hardest-working group of people that I know,” that really is on me. Probably.
But damn it, do I have to be thrilled when a reporter dutifully asks, “What would you say to companies who are afraid to hire people who are different?”
Am I allowed to at least think, “I’d say screw you, ass-clown – how is ‘I’m afraid because you’re not like me’ any different from any other -ism?”
* * * * *
Me, showing the first five lines of this post to my spouse who walked in while I was still typing: Here. Read this.
Me: Yep. I just can’t get away from Autism! In! The News!
Him: Funny you should mention that.
Me: oh gawd WHAT
Him: (tells me about the news podcast he was just listening to, where they were reporting on some people who were arrested and are being brought up on charges because they were peddling “medicine” to parents who want to “cure” their children’s autism.)
Me: (steps away to start punching various inanimate objects)
Me: (has learned how to do this without hurting myself)
Him: Turns out, the “medication” was bleach.
Me: Yeah well I’m sorry but that’s not all that’s wrong with this story. Not by a mile.
Me: Why is my group so horrible and scary to neurotypicals?
Me: Like, oh, yeah – neurotypical kids are always SO easy to take care of. Always! Guaranteed or your money back!
Me: And of course non-autistic adults NEVER COMMIT THE MAJORITY OF VIOLENT CRIMES.
Me: Anyone who thinks neurotypicals are so great should maybe notice which neurotribe was trying to get parents to give their kids bleach!
Him: Good point.
* * * * *
Me (texting my spouse while writing this post): Oh, hey – do you know if there’s an actual name for the irrational feeling you get when, say, you’re pregnant and so all of a sudden it seems as if EVERYONE around you is pregnant? Or now that I’m seriously researching autism, it’s in all the comics and advice columns and news podcasts but probably no more than it used to be, it’s just that I’m noticing it more because I’m thinking about it?
Spouse: (sends me a relevant link like five seconds later)
Spouse: (seriously I don’t know how he does it I would not have known how to even BEGIN to google that bad boy)
Link: It’s called the frequency illusion! Also known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon!
Me: Whoa! Thanks!
Me: …I do believe I felt a bit of gratitude just now.