Consider the square who wouldn’t/couldn’t/didn’t say hello. Circles continue to believe that the square has failed to communicate. The square is further excluded. Next time, maybe, no one will say hello to the square. The circles might create a mythology wherein the square inhabits its “own world,” oblivious to the rollings around of the circles. Some will want to rescue the square, others to vilify. To a larger group, the square is simply invisible.
This is only the starting point of one set of consequences. The square does not live in some separate world, but in the circular world, where majority rules. If an action (or inaction) is deemed to mean certain things, if most shapes have agreed upon the meanings, this becomes a thing elevated to the status of “reality.” The square notes that not saying hello equals rude, indifferent, uncaring. Less capable, less intelligent. What are the other qualities and behaviors that go with these concepts? How can the square go about completing some sort of package that would make sense to other shapes, perhaps becoming visible again, a part of “reality?”
There was a time when I didn’t say much. I didn’t know that I could. The spaces where words were to go were never big enough for me to find out. Interrupting was said to be rude. There was the sleeping air traffic controller, never on duty to say which thought had permission to land. They circled, crashing invisibly as they ran out of fuel. What was left was a texture or pattern. My hand reached again for brick or corduroy. Evidence.
I had nothing to say; the information was not yet in words. It took many years to learn how to participate. A big part of it, still, is being willing to ask for the time, and I don’t always do that. Slower still means less capable, silence still looks like indifference. The people who care most about me intend to include me. I know this. Sometimes a person or group will show acceptance of my rhythms, responding casually and without agitation to the “irrelevant” comment I offer several minutes after the subject has passed. It cannot be expected that this will always happen.
Some people are talking. I scribble on the piece of paper what I intend to say.
Sometimes I have been able to work around the control tower issues through writing. Writing has always been easier, I have always said that written English is my first language, spoken English being a distant second. I never quite achieved fluency.
What about the times when I don’t write? Who am I then? I hear things. I hear that this blog is closed and that I have given up. I wonder if this is true. It could be true.
This is not a new story, yes I’ve said this before. Sometimes the forms of communication that work best shift and crumble under my feet. Sometimes ways of expression are lost, maybe forever. This is a familiar pattern, one I have always known. Some months of writing followed by nothing. This latest absence was just the longest one that has happened in a semi-public space.
Several people are in a room, mooing. The ones who are not mooing may be embarrassed by this, I don’t know, but no one is saying to stop it. I am comfortable here. Later we will talk about the movie and mooing. I will tell them that there are many points on which I don’t agree with the movie’s subject, Temple Grandin. One of the non-mooers will promote Grandin as a role model for all of the mooers and I will want to discourage this. When the time comes, what the non-mooer says is that Temple Grandin had many fears but she never gave up. I say how loud the fan blades were.
The conversation goes on without me. Some people write to ask if I am okay. I don’t really know what to tell them. If I no longer write, then I am not who I thought I was. What other characteristics go with this package? I don’t know how to answer.
The blades turn and the air whispers. It is in the air that people who fly are not quite autistic. People who travel on planes, drive cars, attend college, have jobs are called “shiny.” Meanwhile, more autistic people are dying. Another child is murdered, another adult beaten, another trapped in a van and left to die. If I tell my rectangular stories, it is in the hope that someone will understand that silence does not equal indifference or irrelevance. Silence is not the opposite of communication. My voice, when present, is not meant to replace anyone's voice.
Sometimes the squawk is all there is. Voluntary? Involuntary? I always get asked. I squawk for many reasons. Sometimes it is a way of staying engaged until I know what else I have to offer. Sometimes I don’t know why I’m squawking.
The conference was not autism friendly. I’m sure they tried, and everyone was polite and engaged and appreciative, but directions to the location were sketchy at best. I arrived to find that the workforce development event I had agreed to speak at had been titled “Behind the Mask.” Shiny, glittery decorations were on every table and wall. Mardi Gras masks. I sat down, overwhelmed and confused and waited for someone to welcome me. And then I told stories of employment and squawking and answered the usual questions.
I wanted to tell them there was no mask. I hadn’t been wearing one, hadn’t removed some mysterious facade to show the human shivering behind it. I didn’t come from a separate world. There was no secret to reveal, only the value of accepting and appreciating differences. Everyone knows that by now, right? Is there anything left for me to say? I don’t know. Sometimes the squawk is followed by other sounds, sometimes it isn’t.
I should have said this before. I’ll say it now, then. Squawk. Squawk. Squawk. Squawk. Squawk squawk squawk squawk. That’s it. For now, that’s all I know.