Hey, it’s the end of April and therefore the end of Autism Acceptance Month (or Autism Blogging Month, in my case). I had fun, though I didn’t get to everything I had planned to discuss. I really didn’t think that “favorite characters” thing was going to take so many posts, I originally planned to do it in one. Someday I’ll actually remember before I start writing that I tend to get wordy.
Focusing so much on those characters was useful, though. It helped me think about how media often portrays autistic traits in characters without actually understanding the disorder or making any attempt to explain the behaviors, and how that might cause other people to recognize the traits in real people but dismiss them as quirks. And that makes me think about how much of the disabling parts of autism are hidden and how easy that makes it for people to think we’re just not trying, because they don’t have to live with the sensory difficulties, for example. But mostly, thinking so much about this all the time over the last month has made me realize how important autism is to my identity and that I want to keep talking about it (just probably not in every post).
Looking back, I feel like the fact that autism was never explained to me held me back in a lot of ways. I spent a long time thinking that I was failing at everything because I couldn’t do things like everyone else. More recently I’ve realized that I was only failing at being neurotypical, when instead I should have been aiming to be a successful autistic person. There are important differences, and it is possible to be both noticeably autistic and successful. I’ve seen other people do it, and every time I see those examples it makes me more confident and gives me a better idea of how I can be successful as well.
When I started this blog, I knew that I wanted to focus on the sacred side of fiction and fandom, and I had a vague idea that I would also wind up talking about autism because it’s important to me. I could imagine some of the reviews I might do and some posts about how autism affects my work towards ministry, but I didn’t see how they fit together. In the past month I’ve realized that they’re already linked, and what I’m really talking about is my overall approach to spirituality, which is directly related to my autistic traits such as obsessive interests, sensory issues that can make traditional church difficult, the feeling of rightness when I find something that I can’t put into words but that resonates deeply, as often happens with fandom (among other things). The word “squee” has stood out to me for a long time because it’s a perfect word-that’s-not-a-word, and for someone who has trouble finding words (especially in spoken language), having something that means too-happy-can’t-talk has been important.
Traditional ministry uses a lot of words, a lot of talking out loud. That’s always been hard for me, and for a long time I never understood why. (I mean, it’s hard for everyone, right? Like many things in my life, I didn’t understand that it’s differently hard for me, we’re not struggling with the same things.) It’s become much more clear to me lately that my focus is going to be on serving disability communities and helping local churches to be more accessible if they’re interested (or helping people start their own churches if not).
I know I’m still going to have to talk, and I’m going to practice to make sure I can do better at that and feel comfortable in the way I speak. I’ll be starting up a video series for my reviews and thoughts on fiction/fandom soon to help with that (and because I’ve kind of always wanted to do it but never had the confidence). But I think it’s important that people who have been left out of faith communities can find a place to belong, and to have examples of people like themselves succeeding without changing who they are. It’s important for me to know that I can talk to people and share my ideas without having to sound like everyone else, and to figure out what success means for me.
So this is the end of Autism Blogging Month, but not the end of me talking about how autism affects me, my spirituality, my future ministry, and other goals. Probably a bit more about my struggles with it and how I’m overcoming them, and in particular how some autistic traits can help balance out ones that cause problems for me (as opposed to trying to solve my problems as if I was neurotypical). Stuff about what’s already being done both by faith communities and in the cultures that build up around other “disabilities” (not all use that term). And of course more thoughts on popular culture and religion/spirituality, including probably some transcripts and notes from the videos I do. It should be fun to experiment for awhile and see what works.