21 May 2013

Ordinary Lives

The other day, I stumbled across a paper I wrote in fall 2009 for my eleventh grade health class on twice-exceptional students with Asperger's syndrome. The paper, which received a grade in the A range, spends a lot of time discussing the position of students in mainstream education who are labeled both gifted and Asperger's.

Right now, it's a reminder of how detached I was at the time from the broader Autistic community. There's the tiring repetition of "Asperger's" without reference to the entire community of autistics.

And at the end, there's this sentence about how students with Asperger's might be the most capable future leaders -- borderline Aspie supremacy there, though couched in much more politically correct language.

I'd forgotten that I'd written that.

But there are a lot of autistics who wouldn't, for whatever reason, qualify for the giftedness label. There are a lot of autistics in mainstream educational settings who wouldn't have received the Asperger's diagnostic label. There are a lot of autistics entirely excluded from mainstream educational settings, let alone truly inclusive ones.

And while there will be (and are now, and have been) autistic visionaries, autistic pioneers, autistic inventors, autistic writers, autistic thinkers, autistic artists, autistic politicians -- indeed, autistic leaders in every arena of public life -- there will be (and are now, and have been) so many more autistics whose dreams don't necessarily include fame, whose identities aren't intricately wedded to public acknowledgement.

So many more of us simply want to live ordinary lives.

We're not in the spotlight, and that's fine.

We're not anyone's inspiration, except maybe our (literal) children's, and that's how it should be.

When I demand equal access, equal opportunity, equal rights, I'm not insisting on my superiority, innate or acquired. I don't want special treatment. I want to see the removal of cultural paradigms about what types of bodies and minds should be valued and what types of bodies and minds should be deigned for marginalization. I don't want a world that advantages me over you. I want a world where oppressive systems that ultimately hurt everyone have been overcome, dismantled.


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