Autism and I are proud to announce that I am part of a group of autistics trying to get the letterboard allowed in schools. We are called SEEN (Spellers Empowering Education For Nonspeakers). We are a small but powerful group of nonspeakers with autism determined to change the perception of autism and try to convince the school district to allow the letterboard in a school setting. This is important for some students to be able to be a part of the class and to be able to perform their classwork duties.
I wish autism and I would have had this available to us when I was in school. It would have changed my education from a complete waste of time to a completely wonderful time of learning and opportunity. I am hoping to help autistics after me, and work for a better future for them.
The autistic man was worried. He wanted peace but there was none. The world seemed to be going crazy. There were riots, and fighting, and civil unrest. Neighbors disagreed with their neighbors, and hatred was everywhere. The world was weary and so was the autistic man.
“I want to get out of here and go to heaven” said the man. “This fighting is too much for me.” The world agreed but it said “I know how you feel but we need you here. Autism and you are going to spread a message of love and kindness with your letterboard. Your message needs to be louder than the others and eventually you will drown them out. Then others will help spread your message of hope.”
At first the man didn’t believe it, but when he looked back at history, it always happened. The times of turmoil are followed by growth. So the man decided to stick around and wait for the beauty to come.
It is a scary time right now and I am worried. The world seems to be going crazy. Autism and I are scared! People use politics to aggress against their neighbor. I think about the past and it reminds me of a civil war. I think that all of these protestors are trying to prove their point in the worst way possible. By destroying the capital building you are never going to get politicians to hear your side. Autism and I are sure of that!
You need to protest calmly and respectfully. You need to be brave. You need to be strong. You need to listen and treat your neighbors like you would want to be treated, understanding that your actions reflect you and your message. Talk to your neighbor to understand their side. Talk to your neighbor about your goals and work together to achieve them. You have to compromise sometimes. Accept that. Talk to every person with respect, even if you don’t agree with them. Their opinion is valid just like yours.
And please don’t paint your body and dress as a viking. That never goes over well!
Autism is a difficult life, not only for the person but for the parents. When I was young I wouldn’t sleep well and I got up very early in the morning, like 5 AM. I remember my mom trying to get me back to sleep but it didn’t work so she would get up dutifully to start the day. Autism didn’t care that she was tired or went to bed late. It always comes first.
Being autistic means being silent about your wants and needs. I couldn’t tell them anything….not if I was hungry, or thirsty, or hot, or cold. If I had a headache, all I could do was cry because they couldn’t understand why I was crying. Sometimes I remember being mad because I needed a Motrin and I couldn’t get it myself or tell them to get it for me. Initiation and showing people what I need by gesturing is difficult and not always accurate, so autism and I needed some other way to show them.
Then came the letterboard and my life, as wells my parents’ lives, have been forever changed for the better. At times I am still sad that it takes so much time and effort to express myself, but mostly I am ecstatic that I now have this ability. It is liberating to be able to tell you what I want to do, or eat, or wear. But most of all I like that I can call my brother out, or express my opinion in book club, or joke with my family at dinner, or tell them I love them and appreciate all that they do for me. This is all that I need and want!
Today autism is beginning to be understood. I think that being able to communicate always has a benefit, but it makes us have to defend ourselves. At first autism and I are upset that there are people who don’t believe in our capabilities, but then it makes me angry! Autism and I are tired of people being skeptical and us having to prove ourselves.
You and I both know that autism has been misunderstood for many years but once you know better, do better. Thinking that we are not capable of higher thought is insulting, to say the least. Being at the crossroad is like turning a ship. The turn is small, but eventually it will turn us in the right direction. Being on the ship and directing the course is a big job, but I am up to the task along with my awesome friends!
We are on the S.S. Autism. Won’t you climb aboard?
Many times as I was growing up I tried to show my parents that I was in here. Many times autism and I would say a word related to what people were talking about to show I was listening. Once I was able to point out directions to a pizza place while we were driving in the car in Sarasota. Yes, my parents knew I was smart but they didn’t understand exactly how smart. Talking with my voice is very difficult for me so the way I could show them was a perfectly placed word at the right time.
Today I am able to spell thoughts to my parents and it makes me so relieved to be able to tell them all that I have wanted to for all of these years. Like the way I love my mom’s sense of humor. Yes, it borders on juvenile but it is funny! Like how I love listening to my Dad talk about politics at the dinner table! He is amazing in his memory of history and world politics. Like how I love listening to Ryan talk about the antics of his friends Ely, Chris, and Mike. Like how I even enjoy Alyssa talking about how cute her boyfriend Fran is. Apparently he is dreamy!
So keep an eye and ear out for a sign from your autistic loved ones. They are trying to show you and break free with a perfectly placed word!
The way I am able to talk is slow. Autism and I are so happy we can finally express ourselves, but it is not easy. I think the thing that is helping me right now is how much my mom and I practice. It is arduous and time consuming, to say the least. A blog post of a couple of paragraphs takes me about an hour. The thing is, autism and I think it is getting easier, but it will never be easy. Some days my pointing is accurate, and some days it is like I am drunk. The able-bodied people who get drunk amaze me! Why would they enjoy being like that? I think autism and I were drunk since birth!
Being like this is frustrating to say the least! I think the letterboard is easier than a keyboard though. The keyboard requires the use of fine motor, where the letterboard uses gross motor of your upper arm. That is easier for someone with apraxia. I think almost all autistics have apraxia, although on the outside I don’t show it. I do Diamond Dots arts and crafts which require picking up tiny beads with a stylus and gluing it on a picture. Why can I do that but not talk? I don’t know the answer to that question! Talking requires different nerve pathways I guess. It is arduous to talk this way but I gladly do it!
There has been controversy with the letterboard in which memories are not able to be recalled accurately. This is what skeptics use as proof that the letterboard is fake. I think autistics are amazing in their ability to remember things, but I have difficulty accessing memories you ask of me. The way I can do it easily is if I access it on my own instead of you asking me to find it in my millions of memories. Autistics are going to store memories of what we did today among memories of the rest of my entire life. They are all in great detail and it is not linear. In other words, they don’t seem to be in chronological order. Sometimes if I am asked what I had for lunch yesterday I can’t tell you, but I remember every detail of a movie I saw 10 years ago. I think we have a photogenic memory. I remember details of everything but not the order of it! So if you ask me what I did yesterday and I can’t answer you, it is because all the memories of what I did the past 27 years are swirling around in there with it.