Sub-title: An alternative perspective of World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) from an introverted autistic individual.
Disclaimer: Views are my own and don’t represent the autism spectrum.
It’s April. ‘Which COLOUR am I going to wear?’ Do you seriously think I care? I tend to wear shirts with cats on them, therefore the question I’d be asking myself is which cat am I going to wear? I’m the crazy cat lady on the streets with a cat shirt, wearing cat accessories and my cat tattoo and perhaps smelling of cat litter. It’s April and I’ll stay true to my feline-self. There are 3 reasons I don’t participate in WAAD but I could sum them up in one sentence: I don’t participate in WAAD because I’m autistic. In the immediate paragraphs below, I will state my 3 autistically valid reasons.
First, autistics value knowledge and live by logic. The idea that wearing a particular colour is going to help raise awareness about autism is a joke to me. Where’s the logic? Besides, have you ever considered the sheer number of awareness day/month and what it’d take if I were to participate in each? April is also the month of Earth Day, National Walk Day, Alcohol Awareness Month and who knows what else. It’s like standing in front of the milk shelves or the cereals aisle at the food store. Who am I to say one cause is less or more important than the other? It’s a mere facade, superficial and symbolic. It is what it appears: awearness, not awareness. Why are people doing it then? To be fair, people (referring here to the general population) do it all the time. They change their appearance (wear a certain colour, put on a badge, change their profile picture etc.) to show their support for a cause. Other people see it and might go with the flow. Soon everyone is doing it because it becomes a trend. It gives them something to talk about in their small talk, it gives them a reason to social and celebrate, it enhances their self-image to think that they are doing it for a good cause. It’s an illusion, it’s herd mentality. As the song goes, “Talking is cheap, people follow like sheep”. It becomes a formality. And if you work for an organization or charity group etc (regardless of its respectability or reputation), it’ll be your company’s interests to actively encourage it to raise profile and publicity. I hate formality and doing something just for the sake of doing it and I’ve never been one to follow the trend. If I have to do something simply because everyone is doing it, it is somewhat against my autistic self. Even if I do, I’ll do it on my own terms, in my way. Telling me to turn up for an event or gathering as the only way to show support or respect is not only shallow, it is against my introverted self. I’m not against awareness campaigns but don’t judge me if I choose not to participate.
Second, autistic individuals have a preference for routine. To autistic individuals and their families, autism awareness is all year round. To be bombarded with an array of information and events about autism in a particular month, or even if it’s just a day, disrupts the routine. Neurotypicals (NT) would have no problem and ideally, autism awareness are targeted at the general population which means that NT should make up the majority population but what I’d like to know is how much of that awareness actually gets to the general population? And at the expense of who?
Third, TMI resulting in sensory overload from the overwhelming flow of information circulating around. I’d like to show my support but there is just too much going on at the same time. As another song goes, I fear most of it is “People talking without speaking, people hearing without listening.” Again, I’d like to ask how much of that awareness actually gets to the general population? And at the expense of who?
WAAD may have been well intentioned but it failed to address the peculiar needs of individuals on the spectrum. To participate is to give in to the demands of the general population at the expense of my autistic need for logic and routine as well as putting myself at risk of sensory overload. Being autistic, I wasn’t born to conform and I wish others would stop victimizing themselves.