Living Independently on the Autism Spectrum by Lynne Soraya is described as “What you need to know to move into a place of your own, succeed at work, start a relationship, stay safe.” In fact, it’s a great deal more. Lynne, who writes for Asperger’s Diary in Psychology Today and works for a Fortune 500 company, covers everything from proper conduct and attire at a job interview, what to do when stopped by the police, setting boundaries, career goals, work related issues and self advocacy. My copy is filled with highlighted sections and notations, such as this quote regarding boundaries:
“The unfortunate reality for many on the spectrum is that the training that we receive to help us to “blend in” to the wider world can have the difficult side effect of teaching us to ignore our own boundaries.
“We learn to tolerate pain and discomfort of situations beyond what many others experience in order to appear more “normal” or to “fit in.”
In the margin I scribbled – “encourage a sense of self, listen, honor and respect. Attempts to teach how to “fit in” ensures the opposite within one’s own self. Feelings of being a fraud.”
And this, in her chapter on safety:
“There are times when you will not want to make eye contact. For example, for men, making eye contact while in the bathroom or at the urinal may be completely misunderstood.”
I wrote in the margin, “Privilege = never having to think about things like this.” And, I would add, not only never thinking about something like this, but never having the thought occur to me to think about something like this. Many of the things Lynne writes about are not only things I’ve never had to think about, they are things that have never even occurred to me to think about.
Another sentence I highlighted regarding encounters with law enforcement:
“If you are concerned as to how your body language or speech patterns may be perceived by the officer or first responder, let her know that you have autism and/or provide an autism information card. Before you reach for the card, however, indicate to the officer either verbally or with gestures that you will be reaching into your pocket or wherever the card is located so that the officer will not think you are reaching for a weapon.”
And this about job interviews:
“However, the way many charities represent autism, mixed with our culture’s very simplistic understanding of what disability is all about, can be devastating to many of us who are seeking deeper inclusion in the world. The reality is that I, you, and everyone else on the spectrum need to help the world understand that having challenges – even extreme ones – does not mean a person does not have abilities and contributions to make to the world. Ability isn’t a binary thing. Unfortunately, many people who have limited experience with disabilities tend to act like it is, so when challenges are emphasized, lack of ability is assumed.”
Throughout this book I thought about my daughter. I thought about how, as she grows older, she may encounter, at least, some of these issues. I thought about how she put music to a slide show of photographs on her computer last night and was so excited because I came in to watch it with her and told her how impressed I was. I thought about how creative she is with language and how she comes up with ideas and ways of saying things that would never occur to me, I thought of her joy in music and how when she dances, she is without inhibitions or self-conscious thought. I thought about society and how so many would suggest we “train” her to conform, fit in, and how, many believe, it is all for her own good. And I thought about how I hope my daughter never feels she must betray herself to appease or please others.
Lynne’s thought-provoking and insightful book is available in paperback and on kindle at Amazon.