Like most people on the autistic spectrum Anna has problems recognising and understanding other people’s emotions and expressing her own feelings. She has difficulty predicting other people’s behaviour. Anna finds managing situations outside of her immediate daily routine difficult and coping with new or unfamiliar events challenging. She finds the world a worrying, confusing and scary place.
If Anna’s senses are overloaded she may shut down or have a meltdown. Meltdowns are never minor experiences. In the past they were serious and meltdowns showed themselves by 3 hours of head banging against a wall, wrist scratching, punching her own face, or complete withdrawal. She’s managing better now.
She walks through the door and the manager says “How’s it going Anna” and unknowingly makes her day. Sitting in Costa drinking tea is an important daily routine for Anna. It’s a little reward, something to look forward to, and essential healing time for her. She knows what to expect and there are no surprises. Thoughts of an upcoming happy time at Costa help to counter-balance the torrential ever-building storm of anxiety. On her table near the window all things are in reach, out in the open, and ordered. Anna thrives in an environment where she’s loved for herself, where people aren’t expecting her to change and be their ‘normal’. Anna needs plenty of think-and-be-alone-time. She needs alone time much like the human body needs sleep.
Like most people with autism, Anna has experienced abuse because of her difference. One Care Worker yelled, insulted, mocked, intimidated, humiliated, belittled, teased, isolated, and excluded her. He made jokes about her autistic behaviour, was sarcastic, treated her like a baby, and slammed and banged his impatience at her.
Her self-esteem and self-worth are low as a result of the abuse she’s experienced. Yet Anna has so much to offer. She has a sense of humour. She has a sense of right and wrong and justice. She is loyal if treated fairly. She likes being liked. And so we talk about our poem – her ideas my words. It’s our rant against neurotypicals (the term used by the autistic community to describe ‘normal’ people). I remind her that she has many positive qualities and is different not less:
Anna is autistic unlike neurotypicals
Anna rarely lies, and we love her honesty and that she can only be herself,
Unlike neurotypicals who lie 20 times a day with the skill and guile of Machiavelli.
Anna lives deeply enthralled in the Zen-like moment, space and place.
Unlike neurotypicals whose meandering minds are often elsewhere not here and now.
Anna can ‘smell’ when trespassers have entered her own inner sanctum bathroom,
Especially male neurotypicals of whom, she says, ‘They stink’.
Anna can hear whispers in other’s ears from 100 metres away,
Unlike neurotypicals, unless they work for the CIA.
Anna has a terrific gold plated memory on topics of her choosing believe it or not,
I can’t remember if neurotypicals have good memories or not.
Anna can remember what happened on the 21st of January 2014,
Unlike neurotypicals who can’t even remember the day they abused her.
Anna lives a different life not tied to social conventions or norms of behaviour,
Unlike neurotypicals who hang manacled to accepted unquestioned stereotypes.
Anna has few hidden agendas,
Unlike neurotypicals who spend their days scheming and plotting.
Anna’s differently-wired brain opens new doors for neurotypicals,
Not many neurotypicals open doors for Anna.
Anna is surprising, non-judgmental, loyal, caring, special, and wonderful,
Unlike neurotypicals who are rarely different and usually not more but less.