Friday, September 20, 2013

Autistic Warriors

Lori Miller Degtiarev
aquietweek.com

We have no autism warriors in this house. We do, however, have Autistic Warriors.

As the neighborhood mothers and children gather at the bus stop two houses down, two Autistic Warriors wait for their bus.

Autistic Warrior the Younger runs in circles and cries “Wooo!”

Autistic Warrior the Elder smiles. “Ahhhh, such ferocity! He fights a brave battle against the anxiety of imminent school bus arrival!”

At the craft store, Autistic Warrior the Younger dons fearsome headphones to shield himself from the horrifying banalities of cashier-induced platitudes.

He fights a more formidable battle another day. The sour faces of judgmental and prejudiced shoppers sneer. They expect silence and order as they purchase their bananas and frozen Celeste Pizzas. To defeat them, Autistic Warrior the Younger unleashes his greatest weapon:
“Hello! My name is Tyoma. Would you like to know a bit about me? I have autism, Tourette’s and OCD. I could read before I was two and I am profoundly gifted. Sometimes my Tourette’s makes me jumpy so I can’t be still. Thank you and nice to meet you.”
These are the Younger’s words–a script he wrote to relieve the inexorable internal pressure of not knowing what to say. He chooses when and where to use it.  More than one pretty brunette at Target has been startled by his impromptu delivery.  Scowling cashiers, previously confounded by chirps and defiant hops, soften their features.

His introduction often evolves into pleasant conversations about numbers or merchandise.  We hear, “My xxx has autism, too!” more frequently than you would predict. Once, a cashier with dangly earrings and sparkly eyes leaned forward and beamed, “My son is autistic, too.” I took a second glance, and noticed the warrior horns of a True Ally emerge, pointed and imposing.

Self-advocacy is potent weapon against Autistic Warrior’s foes, stigma and ignorance. And when the Younger Warrior is weary of the battle and chooses not to engage, I remember. People imbibe auras. Emit calmness and confidence, I remind myself, never shame or exasperation.

Self-advocates and allies speak in many voices; some soft and peaceable, others loud and ferocious. Regardless of volume or style, connecting personhood to autism wins every battle.

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Previously published at aquietweek.com