Sunday, February 18, 2018

To the youth I know--you matter. I'm so sorry.

This is one of those posts I highly doubt the people I have in mind as I write will ever see it, or will know is for them. But it's not just the youth I know who fit these words. They're just who I am mentally looking at & speaking to, because Having Feelings at them would be awkward & weird & they have enough to worry about without realizing that I'm a big ball of squishy feelings. 

Dear young people I have the privilege of knowing & working with & seeing grow into who you are going to be,

I am so sorry. We failed you. We meaning the adults. Again and again we failed you. No, #notalladults, but yes, enough adults. You're putting up with a veritable avalanche of bullshit and it's not fair. And it's our responsibility. I'm so sorry that you're going to be the ones stuck with the fallout.

I'm so sorry that your generation has targets on its backs, in the places that should be safe, because our lawmakers care more about guns than about you. I know the kind of people you are, and the kind of people you want to be. I fear for you every day. Every time I see reports of another mass shooting I am afraid that we're going to be holding a vigil for you, because you're brave kids and you're selfless kids (I lucked out, getting to know you. You're way further along the road to decency than the kids I went to school with were). I know that every week, someone is having to hold a funeral for someone very like you. And I can't even imagine your terror every day.

I couldn't even get on the MAX for several months after the white supremacist murder. You have to go to school every day. You can't avoid it. I cannot imagine how scary that is, every day. And you're still brave. Every one of you who I know & spend substantial time with is.

I'm so sorry that you grew up being called entitled and lazy. My generation got that too & it sucked. And your generation is being left in an even bigger sociological mess than mine was--that's saying something. Millennials (that's me, not you. You're Generation Z or Generation Screwed Over or Generation Why Aren't You More Nilhistic or something) are the first generation to have a lower life expectancy than our parents. You may be right there with us. That sucks. You deserve better.

I'm sorry that the news is always, always bad. That you're seeing a rise of fascism. That you're watching while adults, who are supposed to care for you & show you the way, destroy the planet. That kids you've known from childhood are being sent to countries they don't remember, all because adults are letting their bigotries rule.

I know your whole generation isn't perfect, but gods what I've seen of you makes me feel both hope and shame. We don't deserve the representatives I know. You're forces for good. I hope you keep being forces for good, although it's hard, especially as good gets dangerous.

I'm so sorry. You're worth more. We should have fought harder for you. We owe it to you. Please, hold on to who you are. Who you are is beautiful. Don't succumb to the bigotry. Learn from our mistakes. My generation & the ones before chose to not. Be better than us. You have an abundance of information at your fingertips. Please. Learn from it.

I'm proud of each of you. I am proud to know you, to get to watch you grow into adults. I wish you didn't have such a mess to come of age in. I plan to help clean it up. You deserve that & so much more.

Love & strength,

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Awareness (TM) has bad effects on typical kids too

I've spilled much digital ink, as have my peers, about how Awareness (TM) actually hurts autistic people, how we need acceptance not awareness, and all the things that go along with that. People don't really want to hear that. It's like how it effects us doesn't matter or something.

Okay. Fine. So let me tell you who else it hurts: young typically developing children. No, really. And their families too.

Here's the thing: autism awareness seeks to make everyone afraid of autism. It can strike at any time! Eat your baby! It lurks! Seeking to destroy you! (because that's totally how a neurology works right?). Awareness charities want everyone to be on high alert for autism and they want you to be scared of autism.

Well boy howdy have they succeeded. Everyone is afraid of autism. Great. Wonderful. Well done. And everyone thinks they can spot an autistic person.

But they can't. So you have all these families hypervigilantly watching their toddlers for signs of autism so they can intervene, because Awareness Inc told them they can intervene and turn an autistic child into a typical child.

Things Awareness Inc has them worried about? Turns out most aspects of autism, particularly in young children, are in no way limited to or mostly found in autistic kids!

Your two year old isn't talking in sentences? That is in fact normal. Your toddler screams, cries, and generally has no emotional regulation? Well yeah, they're very very young. That's normal too. A three year old who hates change and doesn't like to share? That's not out of the ordinary either. A whole lot of traits and behaviors that the Awareness (TM) lobby has you afraid of are just part of being tiny children.

Autism isn't the reason a five year old won't go to an art gallery quietly. Being five is. No five year old is going to enjoy that, okay? Most preschoolers are not able to deal with fancy pants restaurants. They just aren't. It's okay. They're little!

People are really under educated about child development and psychology in general. Over and over, parents and other adults make developmentally inappropriate demands on children, regardless of the kids' neurologies. Adults just, on the whole, are very bad at knowing what is and isn't typical for a child of a given age--what it is reasonable to expect of an average child of any given age group. People ascribe motivations that are far beyond little babies all the time (a 6 month old is developmentally unable to do something to spite you. Ever. They just are). They think kids have more executive functioning capacity than they do, more emotional regulation capacity than they do, and better ability to access their words in times of stress than they do. And this is when we're talking about neurotypical children!

Then you add the urgency of Awareness (TM) on top of this. Now you have every adult who sees a kid having a hard time hypothesizing that the kid is either spoiled or autistic. That's a snap judgement on very little information and mighty hasty. Little kids of all neurologies have loud failures to deal. Kids do in fact have to learn to talk, and they do it later and slower than people seem to think.

Not everything that baffles or inconveniences adults is either spite or a developmental disability. Sometimes it's developmentally right on time. Panicking that everything is a sign of autism isn't helping these families. It isn't helping typical kids whose parents panic and decide they must have autism--even if they avoid harmful interventions and quack treatments, that's still a lot of stress and a lot of microscope-examining (which is more stress) all around.

Breathe. Calm down. Not everything autistic people do is something just autistic people do. You don't need to be Mad Eye Moody with his constant vigilance. It'll all be ok. Give your kids time to breathe, to develop, to learn how to do things like regulate their emotions and use their words. They need more time than you think they do.

We need more awareness of how children develop in general, less panicking about neurodivergences in specific. Awareness(TM) without that background provides a lot of unnecessary worry and that's bad for everyone.

Friday, January 26, 2018

To those I went to middle school with

Dear (heh) class of 1997 at a certain Catholic 4-8 school in central Illinois,

This letter has been a long time coming. See, I have so many words to say to you and most of them are profanities. You're not worth the eloquence I use for most things, though, so here we go.

We are old enough to have children in school. We are old enough to have children at that school. And that is horrifying. Not a single one of you should be allowed near children, ever. I know that statistically, many of you have your own kids or may work with kids. This is horrifying. There's no way who you are at 14 grew up into a decent enough person for that job--I knew most of you at 18, you were just as insufferable. You were bad people. Every one of you.

"We weren't bad. We were just kids". Guess what? I was too! And because, unlike you, I've never been a perverse waste of carbon who takes joy in torturing other people, I work with kids. I know kids. I know kids the ages we were. They'd have thrown down. I'm not just talking about one of my kids I know, either. I have known multiple young people who'd have taken on bigger and badder folks than yourselves, in a larger number, because they can find "wrong" with two hands and a map. Youth isn't an excuse. Youth isn't a reason. You were cowards and you are bad people.

Let me tell you something you should have known, given that supposedly we were all super smart and learning good solid morals or whatever: you were torturing, intentionally, a child who was being abused at home. So great job. A+. But you had to make sure, since you weren't the richest kid at school anymore, that you maintained your status. Oh, and while I have grown into a person who doesn't give a shit about test scores because they don't determine who you are as a human being, let it be known: 2 people in our whole grade got in on the merits of our tests rather than on the merits of our parents' wallets. I am one of them. That doesn't matter though; I'm a better person than you because I don't torture people who are being abused at home for funsies.

I'm sure at least one of you would wring your hands and cry "but we didn't know" when you find out I'm autistic. Thing is, you shouldn't have to know. The way you treated me for five years, five hellish years, is unacceptable no matter what. If you had known it wouldn't have changed anything. Don't lie. You were bad people. The core of your being is cruel, cowardly pieces of shit. That's just facts.

You were sure pleased with yourselves, huh? I bet. Are you pleased to have contributed to a rip-roaring case of Complex PTSD? Are you? Did you say "gosh I hope I star in someone's nightmares for the rest of their lives?" Oh wait. I know the answer to that question, since you told me to kill myself, daily. You wanted me to not have any more nightmares. Because you are cruel wastes of skin, every one of you.

I sure hope none of you lies to your children and tells them that you care about bullying. You don't. You may care when it's your kid, because they are an extension of you (people as self centered and awful as you don't change that much--patterns exist, sorry I see them), but you don't actually care. You probably relate to the bully more than to your own child. Unless of course your child is neurodivergent, in which case do them a favor and call social services on yourself. You shouldn't be trusted with a dog, much less a neurodivergent child.

The sad thing is? You all had every opportunity to not be literal human garbage. You had money. You wanted for nothing. Most of you had at least one significant talent. Your families may not have been perfect but they weren't horror shows. You could have chosen to not be like you were.

But you didn't. All these choices were available to you, and you chose instead to be the worst of humanity. And you'll never experience any consequences for it, because all those options were available to you. Funny that.

May who you were haunt your dreams. That's still who you are. May you live every day knowing that you deserve nothing good or warm in your life, and that's because you chose to be vile. It's your choices who tell who you are, more than your abilities, and of all the routes open to you, you made a conscious effort to be scum.

I may have nightmares about you still, but at least I'm not a coward. At least I can look at myself in the mirror and say "I never tortured a person for fun". Sure, you literally fucked up my ability to meet goals, but that's on you. I'm worth 1000 of you.

You fucking scum.