Thursday, 15 June 2017

A Letter To The Telegraph About Autism and Special Interests

A letter to The Daily Telegraph.  I'll explain it afterwards.

Image taken from the page mentioned below

Dear Sirs,

I read with interest your article of June 12th regarding the difficulties of being autistic.  I note that the article was written by someone who is not themselves autistic and am dismayed to see that his portrayal of the autistic experience was overwhelmingly negative.  I am writing to you as a happy autistic woman in order to correct this portrayal by focusing on a positive aspect of being autistic.

Being autistic is a trial.  No doubt about it.  You wouldn't ever look at us and say, "Wow!  I wish I was autistic too."  Not with everything we go through.  Your article was right.  The autistic experience can be excruciatingly difficult.

But it can be a great joy too.  People talk of autistic ecstasy and that's a thing.  It's real.  For me at least, and I choose to focus on the joy.  When I can.  Sometimes that overwhelming overloading collapse of everything within takes over.

I'm not going to list the joys and the total fun I have.  I just want to tell you about one aspect of it.  You see, we autistic people tend to focus in on things.  When we find that particular thing our brains scream out, "Wow! Wow! This is for me!" and then we don't ever let go of it and seek to find an everlasting corridor filled with more and more and more of it.  It's not an obsession.  Oh no.  Not quite.  We call these things our special interests.

We all have them and we discuss them too.  Join an autism group and inevitably the subject will arise many times because we like our special interests and there's always this part of us wondering why everyone doesn't share them with us and why they switch off when we infodump at them.

So.  Imagine the online conversation.  Me?  I don't have to imaging.  It's already happened.

New member:  Just out of interest, what are everyone's special interests?

Old members:  Trains.  Helicopters.  Tapestry.  My Little Pony.  Or, and these are all common, Nazis.  Serial Killers.  Murder.  And darkest of all, weather forecasting.

They read about these things.  They know everything.  Collect ponies.  Become meteorologists.  They don't actually become serial killers of course.

Then it's my turn.  They ask me, "What are your special interests?"

Me:  Fraud, bigamy, and highway robbery.

You read that right.  I should explain though, clarify a little.  Because while fraud and bigamy are true and perfect special interests, robbery is just a hobby.  It makes me happy.  After a hard day, when autism has given me problems and my brain feels like it's going to implode and explode at the same time, after those days there's nothing better than popping out for a bit of highway robbery.

Being outside helps me.  Under the bare black night sky when the rushing clouds call to me or the stars send messages that it's all going to be okay.  I'd be out there anyway, even without the robbery.

And I say all this in the groups.  Explain how I get a thrill from all the logical steps you need to successfully get away with fraud.

I talk too about how you need to be very careful when indulging in a spot of bigamy.  Or biandry.  Polyandry really because right now I have four husbands on the go.  James is alright.  But the other three are complete shits.  I'm looking forward to divorcing them but it's a complicated business and I have to follow all the logical plan perfectly.  I love logical plans.  They make me tingle inside.  It's hard to get a worthwhile divorce settlement from your rich shit of a husband when you're not legally hitched in the first place.

Sometimes the things I say produce less than positive reactions, even in an autism group.  I don't know why.  I mean, trains and My Little Pony?  How dull can you get?  But I don't moan when people are into weird things.  Some of those people don't grant me the same respect when I'm sharing my happy things.

Fraud, bigamy and highway robbery.

Talk about autistic ecstasy!

Pointing a pistol at a tourist and demanding their cash and valuables.  Now that's ecstasy.  You wouldn't understand it.  Unless you're autistic too.  I would ask therefore that all future articles you publish about autism would be more positive than the one I read this week in order to reflect the deep wonder we can find in this world.

Yours Faithfully.

Ann Meders

On June 13th I attended a writers' group.  The subject of the morning was female highwaymen, or highwaywomen depending on your preference.

During the course of the session an article was read about several of these women.  If you care to read it you can find it here.  One of the sentences reads, "Alongside highway robbery, Ann Meders born in 1643, made fraud and bigamy her special interests."

That was enough for me.  Out of all these women, the bored and the desperate, out of all their deeds, I couldn't leave that sentence behind.  Hence the above letter.  It was actually free written in the cafe as a monologue.  I've altered it a little to make it a letter, but only as far as necessary.  Ann Meders was hung at the age of thirty.  I think my fictional autistic Ann would get into trouble too after sending that letter.

I will stress that while I have my special interests, and while special interests do get discussed sometimes in groups, I do not share the interests of Ann Meders and I haven't seen Ann's interests raised.  I've seen all the others she mentions in her letters.  They're real.  But I haven't seen anyone plotting how to defraud their illegal husbands.  I also have no good reason to claim Ann as an autistic woman or to place a seventeenth century highway robber in the position of being able to join online autism groups. 

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