Saturday, September 8, 2018

Weaponzed Autism: The internet and it's varying opinions on Autistics.

The internet is not a friendly place.

Well, at least if you haven't lived on it your whole life. See, if you ask someone like myself, a twenty-something milennial who's rather rapidly heading into his thirties, I can tell you I'd be somewhat familiar with the place. Indeed, I've had my darker moments. I participated in the great Habbo raids of 2008 and 2009. You know, the "Pool's Closed due to AIDS raids." Sure, whilst on the surface the large majority of 4Ch and other sites of the like seem to be laden with a bunch of trolls, you see this term get thrown around an awful lot.

"Weaponised Autism."

The term itself came from a thread posted on 4Chan where a user managed to be able to identify the location of a female poster onto 4Chan's /b/ board, who posted a picture of herself asking anons about the look of her dress and outfit at the time.

Article Citation:
https://melmagazine.com/the-rise-of-weaponized-autism-e38472124c6d

Image: 
Anon reaches rainman levels of autism

This particular term played upon the more positive qualities of Autism, our exceptional attention to detail, our precision, our ability to see patterns, and when effectively used, these tools are indeed advantageous to us. The fact that many of us also use and prefer written and/or typed communication allows us to essentially deduce that at least some 4Chan users are autistic, or at least aren't afraid of using the term.

Truth be told however, this sort of behaviour, this darker side to autism, people utilising their positive skills for nefarious reasons (in this case, cyberstalking) or people who have simply been neglected and have been molly-coddled too much, has lead to the condition as a whole having a rather... Strange and jilted view. Autism has several facets as a whole, and in this case, the internet has many varying opinions of autism outside of the online world's autism-friendly pockets.

Consider the case of Christian Weston Chandler, a person who sadly, forgot to understand that not everyone is friendly and nice. A person who let the trolls get to him. A person who took things just a little bit too far. This person, who got absolutely blasted, first by Something Awful's Goons (Goons are simply what people on SA refer to eachother as) and whilst I followed the CWC drama, I had no role in actually harrassing the poor fellow. I used his case as a guide of what not to do as an autistic person, and how not to raise an autistic child. I showed my mother the things they were doing to him. Now sure, whilst she, at the time (I was 15) saw it to be similar as to what was happening to me, in CWC's drama I actually found a solution to my bullying problem. Mostly, because I realised that by reacting, I was feeding the trolls in a way. CWCs case was the more societal example of what not to do.

So herein lies an internet stereotype which is very different to what most people's initial musings with savantic and autistic people. People who are either naive, easy to dupe, and who lack tact, or people who use their gifts for nefarious means and who are known to be aggressive, and abhorrent towards people. Not the best image, right?

Add to that, the fear-centric idea that Autism $peaks is putting forward in its eugenic quest to research a "cure" for us, and we soon realise that this "Epedemic" in which they speak of only adds fuel to the fire of what spooks people about us.

Then we need to add the very real potential for us to dwell and obsess over things. Now sure, if you get us to use our powers for good, we can indeed achieve quite a lot. As a political activist and social activist (IRL, not on the internet like most of the people you see these days) I'm very much a believer in non-violent protest. When a pair of protests known as "The Battle for Berkeley" in Berkeley, California turned violent, and clashes were held between Far-Right and Far-Left leaning protesters, an individual who was neutral to both causes aimed to try and stop the violence. Out of the black bloc, a masked figure attacks the mediator, leaving him with severe head trauma. Now sure, whilst 4Ch was indeed biased in their reasoning behind wanting to find the assailant (or maybe not, the counter situation has not ever been encountered thus far), they got to work to identify the attacker and report them to police.

Source: https://pjmedia.com/trending/antifa-prof-who-bashed-trump-supporter-in-head-with-bike-lock-at-berkeley-given-slap-on-wrist/

This particular person was identified to be a UC Berkeley lecturer and professor. They did this using some rather advanced detective techniques not to dissimilar to the first post. 4Chan has also had a history of using similar techniques to uncover paedophiles in an operation called Operation Darknet, where similar digital forensic techniques were used to identify the owners of several Child Pornography sites on the dark web.

Source: https://www.itworld.com/article/2999148/security/heroes-and-villains-11-instances-of-4chan-vengeance-played-out-in-real-life.html

So, Anonymous can be a hateful monster, but it can also do a lot of good sometimes. This is important to understand. 

In a discussion I had with AutismWest's Ana Palacios, one of the fellow activists I work alongside, we both understood the very real threat of what could happen when autistics take this darker path and use their talents for bad purposes, or let their social ineptitude go past the point into areas where their actions may be seen as harassing or egregious.

Take Eliot Rodger, for example. The person who first coined the idea of Involuntary Celibacy, or Incel as it's known in online circles. Also known as the "Supreme Gentleman Killer", do not let that name fool you. He was no gentleman. He consistently harrassed women, to the point where he felt that he was entitled to have sex with women. Whilst he too is on the Autism Spectrum (diagnosed with PDD-NOS, Autism Spectrum Disorder Class III as it's presently known), the neglect which surrounded him was entirely the cause of this. He, like I, was bullied to a pretty bad extent. He was locked in a schooling system that had given absolutely zero fucks about him, and nobody was there to kick his ass into shape when he was going about his bullshit. Dad was a busy filmmaker, and mom? Well, Not a lot of information was out about her. Without a strong parental figure in his life, and with more psychiactric therapies being dominant at the time, considering his situation, it was going to happen sooner or later. He got obsessed with World of Warcraft as his only escape, and used his YouTube channel to vent to the world, slowly revealing his darker side closer and closer to the attacks. It was Chris-Chan, but without the attention... In 2014, he opened fire, killing three people by gun, and three by knifepoint.

https://theoutline.com/post/4395/stop-trusting-incels-to-be-honest-about-their-problems?zd=1&zi=hcm2267j

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Isla_Vista_killings

So now you're probably up to this point in the article and have a pretty negative opinion on Autistic people. Autism Speaks' idea is sounding pretty good to you. Well, let's add on another thing Ana and I talked about. The single most crucial factor in allowing people to thrive. Acceptance.

Now, sure. Eliot was a monster. So was Chris. But, over time therapies for Autism have changed drastically and in the course of the past four years our understanding of the condition has changed rapidly. The view of autistics and our abilities is slowly starting to shift towards our talents being accepted in the workplace. 

Take Matt Ormiston of ANZ's Autism Spectrum program. ANZ is one of Australia's "Big Four" banks. The other three being Westpac (Australia's oldest bank), Commonwealth Bank (a former government run bank) and the National Bank of Australia.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-04/autistic-workers-recognised-for-unique-skill-set-anz-recruiting/9207862

Paraphrasing, he says that "There's a real untapped pool of potential here in the autistic community,"

Now, why start an article off with serial killers, stalkers and trolls and completely flip face to place Autistics in a working scope? Hear me out. Humans spend about a third of their lives in study or at work. These places are predominantly where Autistics and indeed all other people are going to meet their peers, role models, and associates who will help them throughout their lives. Now, I am a bit of a capitalist critic, I openly admit, I'm a socialist. However, I am also of the belief that Adam Smith's capitalist model can indeed work with some Keynesian tweaks and some fairer taxation policy to encourage competition and collaboration for a more humanist approach. Indeed this bank sees Autistics as an important resource as we tend to be people who pour over the little details. We are fantastic problem solvers, innovators and incredible tinkerers when we are given the appropriate opportunities. We crave a challenge.

Eliot and Chris shared one thing in common.

They both got it way too easy, and never had the opportuntity to work towards something they love.

Yeah, I know. And alarmingly, whilst only 40% of us are employed, the large majority of autistics are not in what they call gainful employment. Employment that we can actually feel proud of waking up to every day.

"But I work a job I hate. Why should Janie flaps-her-hands get a job she likes?"

...Because gainful employment is so much more relevant to us because we are known to underperform in something which we do not prefer to do, but once we are given something which we are passionate about, we outperform neurotypical workers.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2017/07/20/research-shows-that-people-with-autism-have-a-stronger-aptitude-for-focusing-on-tasks/#5a742fc42e82

By providing us with a challenge, placing us in an environment which constantly allows us to experiment, tinker, and most of all, push ourselves to be better, we have the ability to outshine NTs. Not only that, our integrity and honesty makes us prime for various fields of work, such as cyber-security, public relations, media, communications (ironically enough), design, engineering, research, and even governmental work. 

That last one is important.

The single largest employer in Australia for people with disabilities in general is the public sector, with the WA Public Sector commission aiming for an approximately 1.9% saturation rate of disability employment as of 2018. 

Source: https://publicsector.wa.gov.au/workforce-and-diversity/diversity-and-inclusion/disability-employment

But what's alarming is that this number has been actually falling. Just five years ago, the Public Sector Commission reported a 2.3 per cent saturation rate for disabled workers. So why the sharp drop? Perhaps this could be that the sector has hired a lot of people recently, or mayhaps with the shift to the new Labor government here in WA, we lost our disabled workers. This is indeed not true. Presently, there's been a massive push by the government to hire more disabled workers, and there's been a massive push to actively seek out those with conditions which may not be seen as disabilities. The three trainees in my present intake are all on the Autism spectrum. The rate of disabled people in the workplace has actually hovered around the 1.9 per cent mark in the past two years... So even with Labor's amalgamation plan, it hasn't affected the efforts of disabled workers. 

This means, workers with disabilities as a whole are valued by the public sector. The private sector needs to take charge as well, and actively hire more of us... Especially considering that in Australia, there's a great incentive for hiring someone with a disability into private employment. Wage subsidies, grants and training are available to employers who hire those who are disabled. 

As for where us Autistics should go? Western Australians have the Autism Association of WA's AIM employment program on their side, which actively supports people, encouraging people to work with their strengths, whilst also actively seeking employment. If it wasn't for their agents, I'd have a difficult time getting the social side of things out of the way. In the eastern states? You've got ASPECT Australia, who have a similar employment service. 

The difference between general DES providers and AIM, is that AIM actively sought to find me gainful employment. Having previously dealt with EDGE, Another DES provider, I can distinctly tell the difference. Working with an agent who actually knows what it's like for autistic people, means they have a greater understanding of what they need to look for, and it will allow employers to more actively see us as more than a source of cheap labour. 

http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2016-12-09/disabled-employees-still-being-offered-three-dollars-an-hour/8099266

Because that's the thing. Disabled people as a whole, Have one of the lowest wage rates in Australia on average. The subsidies make it easier for employers to see us as a cheap alternative labour source. Now the aim of these subsidies is to get is into higher paying work, to take a load off the welfare system, but instead these subsidies are being used to reduce costs to businesses, and as such we are often thrown into minimum wage positions. This is also because the marginalisation amongst is very real. We are seen as "lesser people" by employers, and as such, we often get treated as such, even if we put more effort in. 

https://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/act/advocates-warn-disability-workers-struggle-with-low-pay-staff-turnover-and-casualisation-20151118-gl1ph9.html

This directly plays right onto the hands of employers looking to hire a worker who is happy to be more productive for less money. However, the real cost of this, is the inability for those who are disabled to get themselves in to a position where they feel equal to their peers. 

So, why bother then? When there's a pension available for some? We should be happy with our crappy jobs, right? Fuck no. We deserve just as much right to be the best we can be, just as much as everyone else! In fact we have more rights than regular workers, because we have different needs to regular workers. 

https://www.humanrights.gov.au/quick-guide/11931

In the case of autistics, If employers Could listen to What we could recommend or suggest to alter workplaces, productivity would actually up going up as a whole. For example, one of the biggest trends in office design, the open work schema, may not actually be ideal for autistic workers. 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2018/07/18/open-office-plans-are-bad-you-thought/

Now, as a person who works in one of these spaces, I dream of being able to have a small, soundproof cubicle where I can work in relative comfort. The primary reason why open plans are used is to save rent and cram more workers into smaller spaces by allowing For a more "flexible" space. But if you take a leaf out of Temple Grandin's book, you'll find that if you give someone too much distraction, you'll get them to lose Focus. 

The primary reason why she designed cattle pens with raised walls and curved tracks for the preparation of moving cattle into slaughterhouses was because she knew that if she could get the herd to move in a certain direction, and get them all flow naturally, cutting out external Stimuli and potentials for them to feel distressed, and getting them to move as a herd. She also utilised squeeze tracks because when cows are separated from their herds they feel quite distressed, and as such, the squeeze tracks made them feel as if they were still with other cows in a herd, rather than as an individual animal being separated from their herd. 

Now whilst we have a greater level of intelligence than you're average cow, she makes a very valid point about open office design in this case. There are so many external stressors to an open office plan, where these designs can often lead to increased noise. Levels, decreased privacy, and increased micromanagement. In fact, studies show that people are less likely to communicate face to face in a nope environment due to the fact that we are more likely to feel threatened without some form privacy. Cubicle offices saw a greater incentive for workers to leave their desks and actively go seek those they wish to see. This autism friendly office design will allow autistic workers to have a quiet space they can call home, and be productive. However, this comes at the sacrifice of space, as cube offices are very much a space consuming idea. For a block of Offices in a medium sized space you could end up losing a good linear meter for every ten meters of space you fill with desks due to the walls occupying that space. However despite the additional space requirements, this idea is going to Boost productivity. 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelbernick/2018/04/18/a-look-inside-an-autism-friendly-workplace-and-culture/

Indeed, it's slowly taking shape. Now that recently diagnosed autistic people are becoming adults, Corporates are seeing this as an opportunity to reflexively think about how we are all going to benefit from workplaces geared to those with sensory issues. They're starting to see our potential, but it's up to us to Complete our side of the bargain, without us being exploited for this. We need to be active but also informed. We need to weaponize our condition, and understand the fact that employers do want us, and we do want to work... However we must also use our positive qualities to actively stand up for ourselves and for others. We are all in this together. If we can be the force for positive change, we can benefit the whole World... 

... Just so long as we get a proper paycheck for it. The bills can't be paid with experience, after all. 









Monday, July 2, 2018

A look at the past: Bullying.

Okay, so it's a word that gets thrown around a lot.

"Bullying"

I mean, sure. What exactly defines a Bully? A person who pushes through and gets what they want? No. That my friends, is not a bully. A bully, is a person who attempts to literally bully you down to their level. The modern rhetoric in modern discourse is that a Bully is a naysayer, a person who pulls you down in every possible way. A punisher. A person who gets a kick out of seeing others fail. In reality then, wouldn't that make us all bullies? I mean, let's be fair. The first initial reaction literally everyone has when someone falls on their ass is a brief moment in your mind which says "what an idiot!", and usually what would happen next? You either walk on because someone else is helping them back up, or you yourself, go over and help them because you're feeling guilty for laughing.

But yeah, sure. Whilst I got bullied heaps as a kid... And I used to say that was a valid excuse for being a bit of a weak person, that's not the case. I used that as an excuse for not getting stronger, so that my brain, which like all brains, is designed to not put us in a situation that's not at all risky, basically came up with.

"but my daughter or son who is on the spectrum is also getting bullied? How does that help?"

Well, autistics as a whole are a threat!

"what do you mean? Isn't that what we're trying to dispel with this whole neurodiversity thing?"

Not at all? In fact, what I mean by "all autistics are a threat" is quite literally, we are a threat to the hegemonic structure of human nature. In a way, we are going to be the greatest minds in our respective fields, dependent on how well our talents are nourished, and how our paradigms of communication are seen. In a way, we have no awareness of what others think of us, and that's the most valuable and important thing about us.

"but I want my child to socially conform!?"

No! Screw that! Why should your child be one of the 80% of people who Blindly follow and obey the crowd? Your Bill Gates' and Elon Musks probably got their  heads kicked in, by both the economic, academic and social systems of the world. Bill gates, for example... He got told that "there was no use for his Windows operating system" at the time when he first designed it in 1982. And sure, it was a clunky, unorganised mess then. But Fast forward to that very famous campaign in 1995 when Windows goddamn 95 changed the way we think about computers. He was the original Steve Jobs. His alternate angle, lack of elitism, and the idea that computers were tools to be used not just by art students, bankers and media professionals, but they were machines for the masses, was entirely the point of Windows. Heck, it didn't even have a technical name. He called it Windows because it behaved like something we were familiar with, Windows on a house, panes into our tasks. This creative vision and insight was indeed a threat to the highly competitive computing market in 1995, and as a result, his business got swamped with lawsuits, criticism, and various other criticisms. He got literally, cyber bullied... For making Windows!

The truth here? If you are seen as a threat to someone else's success, you will be criticised.

Whether that comes in the form of economic discrimination, or in my case, physical goddamn beatings, these people will treat you poorly, because you, yes you, the autistic person reading this, are a mind that could potentially outperform them... If only, if only you knew a way to get all those ideas across, right?

This is why no business ever starts alone, Bill Gates had his offsiders, coders, designers, managers, marketers, tech support teams, to build Windows into the amazing product it is today. I too, when I ran my hobby business, was more of a marketer and technical adviser. So, I had a manager to manage staff, salespeople who I trained the technical side of things to help shift product. An accountant to help me manage finances. All these people helped me to run this business. I was merely it's captain, these people were my crew. A ship isn't going to move without a well paid crew.

So, sure. Bullying sucks. It really does. It's traumatic, it hurts, but Pain will dominate you if you let it win. I recently heard a song by Enter Shikari, called Airfield, which has this line.

"when the wind's against you, remember this insight: that's the optimal condition for Birds to take flight. Now the wind's against you... Don't give up the fight."

When I was being bullied, I never knew I would be able to look back at this moment and think "shit, I had actual haters back then because I thought different, not because I was bad at anything. I got my ass kicked because I was good at something!"

Pain to me, is now a reward for doing something good. If someone criticises me nowadays, for being innovative and fresh, that's a sign that I'm doing something right.

"so what should I do if my child is being bullied?"

Reassure them. Tell them this truth. They bully you because they are critics. Critics tell you that you're innovating. Critics tell you that you're stirring up controversy, you're breaking their norms. If they ask  "but I just want to be normal!" then tell them, "what even is normal anyway?" and watch them get completely confused. Normal, is your own understanding that you, yes, you, have a brain, and the power to change your own world as you see fit.

Remember the five rules.
1: prioritise survival (stay healthy and alive)
2: respect yourself (don't let others walk over you, just focus on your best qualities and understand your barriers)
3: get shit done (be good and be good at it.)
4: be a mirror (be reciprocal in favours, emotions and feelings.)
5: do no harm. (even if it means being a dick.)

Now, go kick some ass.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Gig Economy.

"The Gig Economy"

It's here, and we're not escaping it unless suddenly (and hopefully) people manage to band together to make insecure work illegal.  As an Autistic, this is something I and indeed all Autistics should and must be concerned about, considering the already mounting pressure upon us to get into a workforce that already is not geared for us. Listed below are a few reasons.

1: There are no routines in the Gig Economy. 
Casualisation of jobs does not allow for a sense of structure to be created. Whilst Neurotypicals crave excitement and flexibility, many Austistics (such as myself) tend to prefer structure, peace and order. The lack of a fixed routine of working days makes it very difficult and indeed frustrating for adult autistics to plan out their daily events. Casualisation also requires a person to be on-call, all the time, every time. In Australia, Casuals need a minimum of two hours notice in order to create a new shift, or to cancel a shift. Part Timers require a minimum of twenty-four hours notice. Now, whilst this difference in time might not seem like much, for someone with Autism whose schedule, plans and routine is almost concrete in nature once plans are set, such a volatile schedule could leave a person feeling distressed, worried and overwhelmed. As such, performance will suffer as a result of an irregular schedule.

2: There are no salaries in a Gig Economy
Salary pay is important for Autistics as it allows us to safely regulate our finances. If we are in the know as to how much hours we are capable of working, and in turn, how much money we will get as a result of working said hours, it will allow us to create more concrete, stable plans in terms of our social lives, our working lives, and our financial lives. A full time Salary is more beneficial to an Autistic predominantly due to the fact that salaries allow us to budget our finances better. We have $2,000 this month to work with, $600 of that will go to rent, $500 will go to bills, $400 to food, $200 foe fuel, and the remainder to fuel our hobbies and interests. If we end up working 22hrs one week, and then 28hrs the next week, we'd have to figure out a way to live from week to week, month to month, as opposed to being able to lay down concrete groundwork for our plans.

3: The Gig Economy derails the job application process. 
Surprisingly, in my observation Job Applications have become a lot more competetive, and more socially focused than ever before. In a Job Interview I went in to today, the interview was conducted in a compact room, with at least twenty other people. The interviewer was an austentacious salesman of his product, and aimed to please the go-getters, those who revelled on instability. I came in just to apply for an administration assistant's role, but in the room were sales role competitors. I was told that in this role alone, there would be about 2750 people applying for this one role, and that today alone, there were 235 people being interviewed. I know, this sounds like a staggering set of statistics, and I am well in the knowledge that most, if not all of the people are equally qualified to me, otherwise I wouldn't be here alongside them. This leaves every possible method of weeding out the competition on the table. Bad Social Skills? Gone. Sensory Overload? Gone. Not even a government mandated employee disability incentive could save me from getting the axe in a situation like that, due to my lack of an ability to "Sell" myself.

4: Everybody has to be a salesman. 
Selling ourselves is the hardest thing us Autistics tend to deal with when it comes to the employment process. In this hypercompetetive world where there are too many people applying for a single job, it's often difficult to stand out of the crowd. Autistics tend to prefer to be modest and honest with themselves and err on realism as opposed to selling a story that is shrouded in some form of lies, even if those lies tend to push to sell ourselves. Selling yourself is indeed a truthful form of lying, but it is still a lie, pers sais. It's ignoring your realistic shortcomings and hiding those shortcomings from those who wish to get to know you. In the same regard, nobody tells you what a product cannot do within its own functional context, they only tell you what it can do within its functional context. For example. They tell you that an iPhone has a particular set of features. But they do not tell you that the iPhone lacks a lot of useful features that some people may prefer. The iPhone lacks a Heart rate monitor, and a curved screen, and a customisable interface. But, you do not see Apple saying "The iPhone is not as customisable as a Samsung phone". this latter response, a more realistic response, is how I would respond to a situation when asked to compare iPhones and Samsung Galaxies against eachother. This as a result makes me a great interviewer, as I can logically make decisions about hiring employees that have the appropriate skillsets, personality and traits I desire without seeing the face value of that sales pitch, however most interviewers tend to get into this particular role through social promotion, rather than through the aquisition of those skills, making most interviewers focus on social prowess and the initial sales pitch as opposed to the functional capabilities of the employee prospect.

5: The working environment has changed to a more social paradigm
Working in an office is no longer what it was in the movies in the 70s. As businesses build up their employee numbers, the days of individual office spaces are gone. Now, many people are stuffed into a single office space, with no barriers or walls, no boxes, no separation. This leaves us open to visual and autitory stimulation which may distract us from our work. Job Stability may help us to prepare and get used to this sort of environment and reduce the impact of open plan working environments on people on the spectrum, however we perform best when we have the ability to adjust our own environments. As such, working from home or telecommuting is ideal for Autistics, however such roles are quite difficult to acquire as they are more desirable by Neurotypicals as well, who wish to not have to commute to work. Those who are on the spectrum who are lucky enough to land themselves some form of office job, are very much likely to suffer less than those who work in consumer fronting environments. Although, like anything with Autistics, there are always exceptions to this rule.

6: Nobody actively seeks our skills. 
Autistics are at a whole, creative, analytical, detailed and precise. We currently live in a world of fast pace, fast turnaround work, which leaves very little room to allow us to pursue our active ideals. I am fortunate enough to be an experienced Graphic designer, however the lack of stability in this industry forcibly causes us to have to live from check to check, which in turn hampers our performance in this industry. We perform well in roles that allow us to solve problems, analyse issues, and create new things which benefit a company. Sadly, not a lot of these roles do exist, and those who do occupy these roles aren't nessecarily better experienced people, but rather better salesmen.

In turn, the Increasing level of instability in working life is rather shocking and the onset effects to those who are Autistic are paramount. Suicide rates amongst Autistics are on the rise due to a lack of conducive environments, a lack of understanding when it comes to methodology, a lack of consideration of a lack of social ability during employment, and a lack of willingness to adjust environments for those on the spectrum. We Autistics need to band together to provide a better solution to this huge stop-gap issue. We need to support those who support decasualisation, support policies to ban and restrict casualised work and support policies to improve union bargaining powers and the power to withdraw labour and strike. Sadly these rights are being stripped in Australia, and something must be done to protect the rights of all workers, as well as the rights of those who are Autistic.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

What even is Normal Anyway?

"Why can't you just act normal?" 

This is something that gets asked of me a lot, especially as an Autistic person. I often don't speak or act in line with what the the standard protocol of society dictates upon the general populus. I say this, because my present girlfriend, asked me this particular question. It triggered some pretty interesting, but also pretty distressing debate about what normality is.

In fact, my initial response to this question was pretty simple.

"What is normal, anyway?"

I mean, by its textbook definition, Normal is defined as a standard which other things are compared to, or the net average of the population. However, if by "normal person" you mean the subset average of all people on the planet, you'd end up with a mid to late twenties, chinese man of Han descent. Now, if you factor in the fact that I am a white male, from Australia born to a pair of English settlers, I'm a pretty unique case, right? Well, not entirely.

See, from my observations, Normal is a term used to describe the stereotypical normal person in a given cultural context. We have to look at this topic through ideology, the idea that every individual, despite their best efforts to escape it, are unable to escape the notion of ideology. To me, normal is what I am, how I define myself. My stimming, my mannerisms, my childlike wonder, my aloofness, my literal nature and my technical prowess, are all normal parts of what makes me who I am. Ideologically, my model of a normal person, is a 20-something, Socialist-leaning Autistic man, who has an interest in computers, cars, robots, and science. But in the general scope of Australia, this is not the average. In fact, just the mention of the word "Autistic" puts me in a pretty slim category, a one in forty-eight category here in Australia. Being diagnosed at a fairly young age, this puts me even deeper into the thick of improbabilties... About one in every 10 Autistic adults were diagnosed as children. As such, I got a lot of support when I was a child, and therefore am one of the luckier ones. However, I was also raised at a time when the belief was that Autism simply grew out as you got older. 

The point is, I am, despite being a cisgendered, straight, white male living in a wealthy country, far from the norm in societal context.

My personal worth, as someone with a reduced vocal communication ability, hindered by the amount of processing it requires for me to deal with everyday conversations, is quite high to myself... But to the general populus who value social skills above all else, and the ability to get your point across as the number one benefactor which leads you to successful and stable employment, the crucible of what allows humans in modern society to survive and in some cases, thrive, this pushes me further down the ladder. It often presents us with a rather difficult dilemma.

To Declare, or not to Declare. That is the question. 

We could after all, place a mask upon ourselves. Hide our Autistic traits, be social chameleons. That is, those who have the spoons to do so. However, there is only so long that a person can actually do this before it hinders and damages their social skills even further. I experienced this recently after the rather tragic breakup from my previous partner... The pain of which I still feel to this day. I had been putting on a brave face for well over 17 years, since the age where I started to be able to string a sentence together properly and communicate my points. The age where I could just start to understand what these funny things called "Jokes" were. The age where I realised that perhaps throwing that chair at a teacher really wasn't such a smart idea. I had to learn to mask my traits in this particular environment, but this lead to many screaming matches with my mother.

"No mom, I don't want to go to school. It's too hard." 

No, the work was easy, don't get me wrong. I was in TAGS and PEAC and all the talented and gifted courses you can think of... I blitzed through my classwork. I suddenly had a rapid burst of language intake from years two through seven. I spoke like an adult by the time I was twelve. I was already reading instruction manuals for cars at six, and teaching my father, a qualified mechanic, how to rebuild carburetors that weren't actually supposed to rebuilt.

"No dad, set the main jet to two-and-a-half turns." 

The difficulty was, I had to learn not to show that intelligence. Or rather, I didn't feel it was right to. After all, if I was smart in class, and I did all my work, when the kids noticed me, they'd see that Anthony, the "Psycho kid" had already done all his schoolwork, and his homework too.

"God I wish I was as smart as him. Screw it, let's chuck a coin at his head. Time to draw some blood."

I'd get pelted with the jagged edge of a 50c coin, the blood spilled down my head. My mask cracked. My world went black, and when I came out, I was in the arms of a teacher, the other kid, a total mess of blood, crying with an icepack on his nose. I later found out that I had broken it in two places after I had decked him. I cried. I didn't want to do this... It hurt so much, the Drugs amplified every sensation of pain I felt. I didn't have the words to tell Dr. Christie the meds weren't working.

But it's this stigma. The meltdowns, the violence, the pain we feel, that stops others from assuming we were our own sense of normal. We are freaks, to them.

I would come home, crying my eyes out. My heart was in so much pain... I wanted to say sorry to the kid. I didn't mean to hurt him. That little monster wasn't who I was. Or rather, it was, but the other side of me that I wear that mask to hide... Doctor after doctor, soon came past and shook their heads.

"He's just got an attitude problem, Bump up the Ritalin." 


Now the sunlight was so painful I had to shield my eyes the second I walked outside on a winter's day. Every nerve was on fire. I wanted to rip my skeleton apart. I wanted to rip everything apart. No child, at the age of twelve, should ever think like this. No child at any age, should feel like this.

"Mom, I wish I was never born. I'm a monster."

This stigma, this problem, this lack of care by Neurotypicals, and their inability to understand that there will and always will be outliers to their norm, is exactly the reason why we are often faced with this decision whenever we sit, legs stimming and shaking like an earthquake, bass pounding through our heads, sound rippling through our mind, as the hubbub of footsteps and rain pour on the street outside the cold, air-conditioned hell that was to become my next workplace. I would get called in to the boardroom. This time, I did declare. The manager, with his Mercedes-Benz haircut, his designer suit, and his square jaw, stares me down. 

"So, you're Autistic, you say?"

Yes sir. I am. I might not look like it, but I assure you, the differences I have between myself and the other workers is only down to the way you guys have to communicate to me. I don't like loud noises, or non-informational conversation. I don't like people looking over my shoulder, and I don't like being given long lists of tasks. All you need to do, Is make a few minor tweaks to the way you work.

"...is there a way you can be more... Normal?"

Of course, I could hide who I am, but expect me to become so burdened and stressed by this behavior of working two jobs at once, one as a Graphic Designer, the other as an Actor playing the character of a Neurotypical Graphic designer, that I might fall asleep a little too much, being late for work, and end up eventually becoming so depressed that I would attempt to erase the pain by forcing someone else to take agency on my life. Whether that be staring down the CircleRoute bus, smacking on its window, screaming for the 8 ton monster to run me over, or letting the streamlined nose of a 2014 Toyota Corolla, doing 80kph down Broun Avenue, do the work for me. 

The point is pretty simple, workplaces need to do more to embrace our mindsets. This is why so many of us end up in IT jobs. Networking environments are quiet, closed off, safe spaces away from the noise and the hubbub. The white noise of Server fans may calm some of us, for others, it may be an annoyance, but the management rarely come in, so wearing headphones in the room is generally fine. I could fix problems as they arise. I could set my own deadlines. I could do things exactly according to the rules, because there really is no other way.

We make great technicians, scientists, musicians, researchers, programmers, engineers, astronomers, you name it, we're in these fields. Sitting in our darkened rooms, perfecting our crafts. None of these things are normal to the social human. They're considered "Antisocial", and it's these crafts, these tireless labours that bring forth the might of Facebook, the wonder of SpaceX, the power of Google, the beauty of Apple, to the real world. Minds plinking away in dark rooms, in their own little universes... Creating wonderful things, even if they aren't destined to be great.

My ex partner, told me this very important thing. It is something I still remember to this day.

"We scientists, are not in the business of success. We are in the business of failure. We fail, and fail again, until we find something successful, but I embrace and love my failures. I show off my scars and my mistakes. But, every mistake I make in science, brings me closer to understanding God."

She was religious, by the way.

The point is, we Autistics are brilliant, dilligent workers. We thrive on finding better ways of doing things. Easier and inventive ways. Ways which no NT would ever understand or come up with. Our rooms are messy, because that is how we understand the space. Our minds, aloof, because they are always finding new ideas and telling new stories and finding new things to be passionate about.

While others talk about the issues of the world, Autistics are doing all they can to solve the issues of the world. 

"So what's the solution. How do we get more Autistics to work?"

I am going to end by saying this. Accept us. We may not give into office drama. We may not talk about the things you like or the things you adore. We may be obsessive, we may be a little confronting with our bluntness and honesty, but these are all things that Neurotypicals value from workers. We are driven, dedicated to the task, focused, efficient, and reliable, given some minor workplace adjustments.

One day, I hope to be able to declare that I am Autistic, and that reason will be the reason that I can hold up high in saying that that was the reason why they accepted me, for this is who I am.

Anthony John Bean. 27, Autistic, and still alive, despite all the shit that's happened.

Have a good night.