Sometimes – inspired by my library’s “Read Woke” list, or by the time of year – I make an effort to learn about experiences and identities different from my own. I believe ignorance is the root of several evils, so I try to educate myself, usually with books.
Last month was Autism Awareness month, but that didn’t change my reading habits. I’ve been reading books about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) for over ten years. Recently I decided that books were no longer enough for me, that I needed to engage with the discussion and push “autism awareness” out of the bounds of April.
So here we go.
Early last month I heard a sportscaster mention the fact that it was the time of year to be aware of autism. “Such an important issue,” he said. His colleague agreed, and they went back to calling the game.
Now, I don’t resent either of these guys for making such a brief statement on the subject. The average sportscaster (heck, the average person) can’t be expected to shoehorn some autism trivia into a conversation about basketball. Possibly they weren’t comfortable discussing a subject they felt they didn’t understand. That’s fair.
I, however, am working on ways to shoehorn autism into my daily life. I have both a professional and a personal interest in ASD. One of the main characters in my NIP is on the spectrum, and so am I. I won’t get into my own story here – I plan to write a few essays instead and submit them for publication, where they’ll have a wider audience and I will (hopefully) receive compensation for dissecting my heart on the page – but I am looking forward to sharing the hows and whys of my neurodivergent characters.
In the meantime I’m asking my non-autistic readers to tackle their own ignorance about autistic people. Seek the stories we write, the films and podcasts and art we make. Here are a few examples:
- See the Potential: A short documentary with comedian Michael McCreary.
- Adam Auron Lodestone explains how neurotypical people can adapt their conversations to better communicate with neurodivergent folks on Neuroclastic.
- And for my fellow writers: Autistic Representation and Real-Life Consequences: An In-Depth Look, via the fabulous site Disability in Kidlit.
There is a great desire in the autistic community for the focus to change from awareness to acceptance. April is over, but we don’t pack away our stimming, communication differences, or sensory differences like holiday decorations, and nor should we have to.
Expect more blogging about autistic authors and their
#ownvoices books, and about writing autistic characters, in the near future.