Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"One of THOSE People?"

I had my blog all planned out today; I was going to write about the need, at times, for help when talking. I'm needing this right now as my car is in the shop and someone is sort of translating and talking with them because making decisions on my feet in that realm is something I'm weak at. That was going to be the topic, until I got close to the office.

I either slept through my alarm this morning, it didn't go off, or I was able to turn it off without consciously knowing. Whatever the case I was two hours behind where I wanted to be. Because of this I decided to fall back on my old breakfast of a Wheaties Fuel bar and a Red Bull. I stopped at a gas station, which I will not say where, to do this.

A situation popped up even before I got to the door as there was someone walking in close proximity to me. I always panic on this because, do I just walk in and let them get the door or do I hold the door open for them? I tend to keep the door open not because I am doing something nice but I'm trying  prevent them from yelling at me. I may have this down but each time this happens I go deep within myself in regards to thought trying to protect myself from the surge of panic that happens.

Once the door issue passed I walked in and I was so concentrated on what I wanted to get that I became oblivious to what was going on around me. I heard, "Hello" when I walked in my I didn't make anything of it. "Hello again?! Is anyone talking today? Wow, how rude!" Again, I heard this, I looked up in a startled fashion, but I could not respond because I had to find the Wheaties Fuel bar and then decide on a sugar or sugar-free Red Bull.

 After I got the sugar edition Red Bull I finally realized what had happened; the clerk said hello and I ignored her fully. It wasn't out of choice, but it quite literally was because I was unaware of my surroundings and didn't process the spoken words in time. It probably seemed really rude however there was no intent of being so as a string of events that proceeded the hello put me into a state within myself and processing at an appropriate speed became impossible. While that might be so, as this story progresses, I feel my blunder is minuscule to what happens next.

Once my two items were in hand I walked to the counter and she asked, "How are you today?" If you've followed my blog for a while you'll know that this question always sends me for a loop. How did I respond? "Umm... well... yeah... I don't know." I knew she was mad from being ignored and I didn't know what to say. Also, and this is an important thing to remember when around those on the spectrum, or at least me, I don't understand the varying levels of mad. That means either everything is all right or the other person is mad to the point that they are going to hit me. It's black or white and middle ground does not exist.

The clerk then said, "Well, with that answer no wonder you ignored me." She said it with a condescending tone so I then said, "Yeah, being on the autism spectrum makes it hard for me to communicate at times." When I say this I usually want to the conversation to end, but then she said words I may never forget, "Oh, so do you have a job? You aren't one of 'those' people are you?"

Those people?! What is that supposed to mean? Whatever was said there is no way that was intended to be a positive statement. I mean, those people? What people? People are people in my book, every person is unique and I think everyone strives for "normal" with not one person ever achieving it. But still, "those people"? Is this was the autism spectrum is to the eyes of people that don't know it?

I got my two pennies change and quickly vacated the building angry. With attitudes like that one how on Earth could any person on he spectrum or parent of keep their head up? We have enough challenges to keep life interesting that we don't need condescending remarks from strangers. If you could have heard the tone with which that horrid line was said you would be worked up too.

I don't know what this shows; was is simple ignorance of the autism spectrum? Or was it something more? Even now as I write this I am angry to the point of minor shaking. I'm worked up because this is just another case of showing me that the world needs more awareness. No one should go through what I did when they have a challenge. I think I have a bit of a thicker skin that I used to as I turn these negative experiences in life into, usually, a humorous story in my presentations. However, there is no humor here. There is no punchline. To be looked down upon as if I am something less is something that I hope I never go through again. It was as if, since I was different, the normal rules of conversation went out the window and I instantly became a person that couldn't understand an insult and that made it okay to insult not just me, but every person on the spectrum. As I said, there is no humor here and the dark side of the world was exposed to me. If one person thinks this way there are more that do too.

Someday I hope that a job like mine isn't needed. Someday I hope that there full awareness and understanding of the autism spectrum. Will this happen in my lifetime? I'm not sure. I do know that going through an ordeal like mine today is very difficult. I think to parents that have their children with them in public when a behavior arises; what do those unaware of the autism spectrum say? Do they eventually hear a line like I did today? If they do I can now relate because there is nothing more deflating than to be spoken to as if you're guilty or some sort of hideous crime against humanity.

To end this I can only think of one way to do so. I do know that of everyone I've spoken to the vast majority are sympathetic to the autism spectrum. They might not have a full grasp of what it is, but there is some sort of knowledge base there and they don't look down upon the spectrum. However, it only takes one. It only takes one person to destroy the confidence and self-esteem of a person. Try as I might, but I feel a little bit less today. I know I'm different, but to be spoken to as if I harmed that clerk in a way that is unforgivable is all but, well, unforgivable. So, to the world, I want to say this. Who do you want to be? Do you want to be the person that is there for me when I might need a little bit more help? Or, do you want to be one of "those" people that are blind, ignorant, and rude to those on the spectrum? Obviously, if you're reading this, you'll never be one of those people, but they are out there and the only thing I can do is hope that someday they'll change.


  1. Thank you for sharing this.
    It made me sad to reading this. In my ideal world every person can be who they are and get the respect that they deserve.
    By the way, some of the most fantastic people in my life are living in or with the spectrum. They teach me so much, I can only be grateful for knowing them.

  2. Aaron, I am sorry that one person trashed your day and how you feel about yourself. I know how it is to be unaware of surroundings and not to hear a person speak. I can only imagine how the black and white of anger/non-anger must make that situation worse. Thanks for letting us know what you go through. It helps me to be more aware of others' motivations when I think I have been slighted by someone's non-verbal responses to me.

  3. I hope that one day we all come to an awareness of the value of life of all living things. I'm glad that you've dedicated the amount of time to bringing more awareness in the autism front. It's a difficult task to stay positive in a world where people like the clerk you experienced share space and time with you. I struggle with it everyday. I also struggle with the door dilemma, and the surface level greeting hello's. It sucks to know that i'm one of "those" people, though some may think of us as this, i know in my heart and mind that what i am is equal, if not greater than being ignorant and condescending. Keep spreading the light to the blind!

  4. I am fostermother for a boy in the spectrum, he lives with me and my family since he was 9 month old. Because I liked to know more about his restrictions, his feelings and his difficulties with strange situations, I have done a course with Open University about the Autism Spectrum in the 21 century. I think, people have no guess, what this diagnosis means. People like some teachers and also medical personal in the same way like neighbours or your clerk can not understand these problems. Don´t be sad about this, it is a daily fight for equality and awareness. Do you know Bill Rocque´s study "Mediating selfhood.."? My son has me as a translater, mediator and bodyguard, I can explore him the surroundings and explore the people his restrictions, you are allone in such situations. I think, you should really ignore some words, especially when they came from "those" persons. (I hope my English scills are not too bad :-) )

  5. I am so glad I found your Blog! As mom to a child on the spectrum I worry constantly about how people treat each other. The person that said that to you is common, she would have said that to anyone that was at that store that day. Don't let this person ruin your day, they are a dime a dozen! Rude people are everywhere and you need to just remember "you" are not responsible for "those people's" bad manner's. : > I have had that same remark made to me and I just shake my head and tell them I feel sorry for them....then walk away. ........smiling.

  6. Oooohhhhh, I know what the clerk meant by "those" people... Take it from someone on government profit. It's us the clerk means. You probably know by now that I'm on government profit, because working is very hard for me seeing I have Asperger's AND am Chronicly Fatigued.
    This mix makes it very hard for me to find a suitable job AND keep it. Just think about it... Who would want to hire someone who gets ill every time, even without warning? Someone that unreliable? In this case it doesn't matter that I'm very smart and that I work with absolute perfection. They have to manage a working environment and that's nearly impossible if someone gets ill all the time.
    On top of that, I get even more ill at the first few months, because the stress of being new there while I'm on the Autism Spectrum just takes its toll on me. I never get past the trial period...

    Because of this I'm jobless at the moment. I grab hold of every newspaper with job advertisements in them and I search for applications online like mad. I even follow some accounts on Twitter that share job applications. On top of this I've walked around the city, leaving my resume everywhere.

    Still... When I get in a situation where I have to explain to someone that I'm on government profit because of my diagnosis, I get the same response as you did a lot of times. "Oooohhh... You're one of them..." Some even had the nerve to smile and say "Yea I get you! *wink* Sitting at home, still getting money, that's the life right? *wink again*"
    I'm earning less than minimum wage and am being looked down upon by a lot of people. On top of that I feel completely useless and like a failure. While I feel this bad about myself, even though I know I can't help it, I have to endure hearing politians talk about people on government profit, saying they need more motivation by taking away more money.
    MORE MOTIVATION?! There's plenty! I'm earning less than minimum wage as it is already! How will I ever get my own place like this?
    And STILL I meet people like this, talking about people like me, like we're the scum of the Earth.
    And I didn't even talk about how my illness on itself feels like yet...

    Yes, I meet these people about weekly or something. I'm trying to tell myself they just don't know any better and I educate them right on the spot about how it's like to be on government profit and on the spectrum.
    I know there are people taking advantage of their government profit and diagnosis. Even better, I've met them. They enrage me the same as they enrage everyone else. But they aren't the majority, they're simply the ones who keep making it to the newspapers, making life miserable for the rest of us.

    I've worked for 6 months at the same office where I get my coaching. It was a nice coincidence that they needed an employee for a short period of time. In these 6 months I've got to see a lot of clients. Believe me, there are some who aren't trying, but most of them are. They really are. (There was even this person who travelled 2 hours, just to get the right help... Bless him)

  7. Unfortunately when someone says Autism, the only reference alot of people have are either from the movie Rainman or the hand-flapping associated with classic Autism. They do not realize most people come in contact with some form of Autism every day. How can you not when the stats are 1 in 88 people?

    At least with people like her around, you won't be out of a job any time soon. :)