Thursday 19 April 2018

Autism Acceptance Month 2018 Day 19: R is for Resilience

BSL: endurance (right-hand sign), firm (right-hand sign)

R is for Resilience

Thanks to Kyly for this one!

In a world that is not set up for autistics, it can be difficult to manoeuvre day-to-day, so a lot of us have developed a good amount of resilience. We've had to.

So often, the world can be too loud, too bright, too close, too confusing, too overwhelming, and just getting through the day can feel like an impossible battle. It throws an inordinate amount of hassle and stress at us and we are expected to take it, are expected to switch off our autistic responses as though they were a light switch (hint: it doesn't work that way). It is a lot harder for us to negotiate than it is for NTs. And we don't always cope, I'll be the first to admit that. I often have no idea how I manage, although as I said yesterday, quiet time is massively beneficial. Knowing and being able to identify triggers can help, but they can't always be avoided, and the same can be said for demands, expectations, activities, etc. That quiet time makes it easier to deal with the busy parts of the day.

Getting through a school day was difficult, especially secondary school. I'm thankful that my primary school had huge windows so there was a lot of natural daylight pourng in, which meant less time spent under fluorescent lights, but they still irritated me (I have Irlen Syndrome, a light-sensitivity condition, so severely I managed to break the diagnostic scale...!) On top of that, the constant noise and social expectations could be unbearable sometimes, and I loved reading time, because it was so wonderfully quiet and peaceful (this is before the Numeracy and Literacy Hours were introduced in UK primary schools). Sitting at the front of the classroom helped - it was easier to focus on the board (especially in Year 6 (the academic year in which you turn 11) when I started to become shortsighted) and the chatter of the other pupils was behind me rather than around me, which made it easier to concentrate.

Secondary school was where the social difficulties became painfully obvious. I barely coped, I'll be honest - not least because I didn't know I was autistic at the time - and I spent break and lunchtimes out of the classroom, away from the chatter and the social exclusion, instead finding a quiet corner with a book or notebook, or going to a lunchtime club. I struggled. I struggled horribly. To this day I'm still not sure how I made it through, how I'm still here. Sometimes you keep going solely because you have to. With me I think part of it was sheer bloody-mindedness and autistic stubbornness! That and some amazing friends, especially Carol H and Caroline B (now T).

So many other autistics have similar stories.

We fight on, we keep going, we keep strong even when we don't feel it or want to.

And as adults, it continues. Difficulty finding jobs because the process is skewed against us, mental-health problems, PTSD from being put through "interventions" like ABA, loneliness, social exclusion, difficulty with the world around us.

Another aspect of resilience comes from dealing with people online, particularly Autism Parents™, antivaxxers, curebies and so on. I've not yet encountered that many, although there have been the odd one commenting on AoW. I'm sure it will come! I take my hat off to people like Ryan, who encounter them on a frequent basis. I think to an extent you have to force yourself to not let it bother you - I know I've had to as I tend to feel everything very intensely, and at first the attacks hurt deeply and feel extremely personal, but I've reinforced my mental and emotional armour. We're a tough, stubborn sort.

[Side note: If you come on AoW and defend ABA, play the Not Like My Child card or go all Autism Warrior/Martyr Parent™ on me, you don't upset, hurt or intimidate me, I don't lose sleep over you - I've got too much resilience these days.]

And so today I want to celebrate our resilience, our ability to not be crushed and utterly destroyed by a hostile world. I want to celebrate our survival, our internal strength (even when we don't feel very strong), our resilience. Shoutouts to my friends, and fellow activists and advocates, all of whom have amazing resilience! Ryan H, Ann M, Dallas, Amalena, Kieran R, Cal M, Amy S, Paula D-W, Hannah Q, Garrett, Alexis R, Monique C, Michelle Mc, John G, Alex K, Jeanette P and anyone I've accidentally missed.

You guys are brilliant and I love you all; keep going!

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