Autism is not a THING
Like a bad toe or a bad heart
It’s not an ILLNESS
Like flu or cancer
It’s not even EXACT
Like a tumour or a broken bone
It’s more like a GARDEN
Or a veg plot or a window box
But instead we ARE that garden and we LIVE that garden.
We all have some of the things – yes all of us – everyone – even you.
We all have the blades of grass or the ivy or a rose or that little bit of moss that sits between the roof slates and in the guttering. We all have bits of the bits that make up autism. It’s not easy to count or measure all the bits that make it enough to BE autism, and sometimes it is no more than a feeling that everything is not right or not easy: there are too many azaleas, and too many thorns on the roses perhaps or maybe the ivy has taken over.
But it’s not even necessarily a problem until we compare our garden with other people’s and wonder why it’s different and why we enjoy or obsess about different things, use colour differently or simply struggle to conform to garden norm. Allowed the right tools and allowed to use them in our own way many of us are completely satisfied.
People who are not autistic but think they know, want to measure autism as a THING, want to tell people whether they are allowed “into” autism or not, and then try to tell people their autism makes them problematic like a disease, like a weed, like something to be managed, or even feared.
But it is not a THING. It is a way of being a human that overlaps everywhere with everyone else’s way of being a human. It’s just that people like noticing differences, and if you’ve got enough of them, out comes the measuring stick and the assumptions.
‘Ooh. I expect you’ve got too much ivy.’
‘You’ll be obsessed with grass then.’
‘You’ll have a special skill for topiary like my cousin’s neighbour’s son.’
No. Not even that. You’d think so though wouldn’t you?
‘But what about that film where that man…?’
Ah that film. That man. Yes. No.
I saw a film about a murderer who was wearing a green jumper once and you’re wearing a green jumper… I can’t make that connection? No? Funny that.
We do need some form of measuring if the creeper up the wall becomes too big to manage, we need some form of help if there are too many jobs and not enough hours in the day, we need some form of acknowledgement if it’s essential to our health and well-being that we be allowed to concentrate on our wildflowers rather than our window boxes.
But there is no one THING that links autistic people together like a clan other than outside perceptions. We’re just the mixture of genes that made us the individual we are. All of us.
Even if we’re not gardeners. 😉