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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Where are the autistics? Or why I'm not going blue for autism awareness

This isn't to say that there isn't some good from the world autism awareness day and general autism awareness month. Definitely some good can happen from people being aware and people who usually don't blog about autism to 'come out' about it.

Problem is that there is something called negative awareness, which harmful misinformation and stigma is spread. Contrary to popular belief, intent does no erase harm, nor does it excuse the damage. There is much potential for good, but there is also the potential to spread the harmful attitudes that contribute to ableism, abuse and hate faced by autistic individuals and disabled people. Without acceptance and inclusion, even the most well-meaning awareness can go horribly wrong for the people it's trying to help.

"But Corina, isn't that incentive for you to add your voice to the day/month?" I hear the argument, that I should join in order to present both myself and the autistic community. And to be honest, a few years ago I would agree and eagerly pull together some hopefully inspirational piece on community, or try for some insightful look at my life as an autistic adult. But not anymore. Now I save those words for when I'm actually inspired to write them, when I'm not treating my activism like a school assignment, trying to write something by the deadline.

There are also other reasons why I will not join in. One is that with so many 'voices' during April, it is some times very hard for autistic people to be heard, even during awareness events supposing to be about them!! Yes, there are pockets where a conscious effort is made to follow "nothing about us without us". Yes, I am happy about that, and yes, usually i don't concern myself with how many people I reach. But for this, it's more about the principle of the matter; I shouldn't have to compete in order to be heard.

I refuse to turn my activism into a competition of how loud I am. I also do prefer substance over quality. This is part of why I haven't been updating as often, even though I have a couple of articles waiting in draft. The other reason for my lack of regular updates leads to my next reason for not deliberately being a part of autism awareness month*.

I'm tired. Not tired enough to give up writing, but enough that I have to be careful with how I spend my batteries and spoons. And it's more than just being tired of having to be on top of everything and the feeling that I have to comment on every little drama in the communities (seriously, I got out of a lot of fandom communities due to drama; it's just a waste of energy sometimes).

I'm really busy. It sounds like an excuse, but it's the truth. I write a lot on autism, because I am Autistic, but I'm also ADHD and Learning Disabled. I am in school, which means reading, writing assignments and essays, and a lot of sleepless nights. On top of that, I work retail in a position that uses a lot of my weaknesses instead of my strengths. Some how, between all that I squeeze in a modest social life and my household chores. Between all THAT, I squeeze in self-care, both physically and mentally. I sometimes have to remind myself that this is all a part of being a responsible adult and not to mentally beat myself up for 'taking a break' and not being productive. Taking care of myself means letting myself enjoy things, like playing a game, watching a movie, reading a book, painting, writing novels, drawing comics, and knitting.

Sometimes, I have to make a choice between writing activism or taking care of myself. This is actually a lesson I had to work with therapists to get, to be 'selfish' and do what's right for me instead of burning out. This also means choosing which autism events I participate instead of jumping at every event that I hear about. I'd much rather focus on events that I know will be building positive awareness and promoting acceptance and inclusion, not to mention pride.

So, to wrap it all up, I refuse to turn my activism into an assignment, competition, or burn myself out, especially when 'autism awareness' is what i do all year long, not just one month or day. And that is why I am not 'going blue' this month.

*other than the fact that I'm Canadian and autism awareness month is a US thing, primarily. I've never really been one to let a border get in my way when I have the means to do something I want. Never mind... apparently Autism Awareness Day has come to Canada, as a bunch of buildings in Toronto are being lit up in blue.  Nicely enough, I see that proceeds to some of the events go to a few Autism organizations that I personally know to be pro-neurodiversity.  


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