29 Sep Greta and The World of Obsessional Interests
There has been an awful lot of hate in the media lately. Hate directed towards a young lady with Asperger’s who has the tenacity and bravery to talk openly about her beliefs and passions to save the Earth. I’m no scientist. No environmentalist and so I don’t really know what to say or think about climate change and so I won’t say anything until I am better informed on that subject! I am however a professional experienced in supporting autistic people and I am appalled by some of the comments I have seen posted about this incredibly brave and strong young lady who is technically still a child. That infuriates me even more. A child. Let that sink in a moment. How can we think that to spout venom and hate towards a child is acceptable?
What this young lady does is stand up for her passions. Her beliefs. She carries a message to us all and tells us to wake-up! Wake-up loud and proud and use our voice to comment and share our pain and frustration that we mask behind TV shows, alcohol, addictions and all manner of distractions. I say that without judgement because I too am one of those who keeps silent and avoids rocking the boat. Until now. I can no longer stand for the fact that we berate children publicly and even more so, children with differences that make them unique in our world.
The reality is that this young lady is only doing what a band of misogynistic, masochistic, power hungry and greedy people do daily to continue their reign of power over the masses. The difference? She is a girl. She has a diagnosis of Asperger’s and this scares the living shit out of this group. This group are collectively responsible for the continued suppression of the rights of the individual. This group allow us to see differences as a disorder. They label and spread their negativity through the choice of words that they use to comment on her unique sense of self. Her unique take on the world around us.
And so here I am, a professional who has lived and breathed the world of differences since being a child. Not only have I dedicated my adult life to becoming a professional, but I am the sister of someone with a label. A diagnosis. A disorder which makes living in this society we call home so freaking hard. Not only hard for the person whom is different, but hard for the family, the parents, the sisters and brothers. Every day those with special educational needs, autism, communication impairments, learning disability or mental health diagnoses face a battle that not many can truly understand. They fight for every single achievement and goal that they accomplish. They fight to access transport, education, value, recognition, a job or suitable housing. This has got to STOP. Their challenges in functioning in this society are hard enough without the media allowing the spread of hate and venom towards them. Words have power. They have an energy which when negative or hate fuelled add more pressure onto the person they are used to label. Imagine not only having to fight a battle to cope with the world but having to fight through the darkness and waste matter of these words that are used to label you, keep you squashed down and silent.
I feel the need to strongly share some of my own experiences of autism and help try to clear up some of the misunderstanding and hate that seems to be thrown at individuals who are different. I want to start with Obsessions.
In one piece of hate speech, I read that Greta Thunburg’s impassioned speech and view on climate change is due to her Asperger diagnosis. Her Asperger’s makes her have this obsession with climate change and she can’t tone back her message, which is creating fear in young people that we are facing an extinction of sorts. Well. What tosh. Obsessions do NOT create fear.
Obsessions for the autistic individual are a passion. An inner knowing and sense that their role here on Earth in this society is to focus on this area of skill and knowledge. It’s a knowing that no amount of therapy, behaviour modification or education can truly stamp out because it comes from a place of love. Unfortunately, society seems to value this dampening down of the spirit. Therapy, education and behaviour modification encourages the flattening down of a passion. Aims to normalise it and make it acceptable to the masses. WHY?? Why do we think that being part of the crowd is the best way? Greta stands against this. She encourages parents and professionals to advocate for the differences in young people with autism. We should value what these children and adults have got to say. They KNOW. They believe. They won’t be quietened down. I have found that when you work with an obsession, a passion, you get so much more from your time with the client. You learn something about you, about the world. You expand your consciousness. Yes, it can be hard work at first. It can be painful; make you address something about yourself that you’ve been hiding from but the beauty that comes from that when you see the light. Understand something and make a connection with the person. It’s worth all the pain and hard work to have that. Isn’t that what we are looking for with our autistic children? A way to make a connection. Do it. Share in their passion. Share in their interest in something of meaning. Life is a series of meaningful connections with others. Those who are the happiest in life have the most meaningful connections according to a lot of what I read.
An obsession for the autistic is something that helps them to make sense of the scary and confusing world around them. Obsessions are used to help the autistic find a sense of purpose and connection with others and the world around them. You only have to visit a techy office, an accountancy firm or an engineering break room to find those with obsessions using them to live a very normal or typical life. Think about obsession with cars or planes and trains. For hundreds of years we have used obsessional interests to make our way in the world, develop new ideas and thinking. To develop and grow as a society. Temple Grandin once commented that without an autistic brain we would still be sat trying to spark fire from rubbing stones together or something of the like. She is right. It is about time we as society embraced an obsessional interest, a passion.
I was listening to two guys talk about heating systems on the train at 6am the other day. Don’t get me wrong I was pissed off they were talking so loud at that time in the morning but when I looked over and saw how animated they were, how engaged and connected with each other they were my anger soon dispersed and I saw it for what it was. A connection. A beautiful human connection. A conversation. Something you rarely hear these days on a commuter train! I am not claiming these guys were autistic, I don’t know wither of them well enough, but this captures my point. Success and happiness can be measured by connection. Why then do we want to prevent or hinder the obsessional interest in someone with autism?
Passion is something that we as society seem to have forgotten about. We all complain about the droll 9 to 5. Why is that? Why do we need holidays and cars and tech and this and that and the other? We have no passion left in life or have allowed our passion to dwindle to a tiny flicker that ignites every once in a while and is dampened straight out again by the challenges of modern day living.
We have allowed ourselves to become wrapped up in a materialistic world. Autistic people couldn’t give a flying monkey about this kind of shite. Greta stands for that. She shows us what it means to value something, believe in something and fight for that. That’s a scary thought. We are being shown our own failures by a child who in medical terms and frameworks is a failure at normal because she has an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Holy moly. Someone who is diagnosed as a lesser person has a passion and stands up for it and we all say she is obsessive? Compulsive? Too much? No. No. No. NO!
Passion is what makes us amazing as people. Watching anyone talk about something they have a passion for is beautiful to see. Their face lights up, they’re animated. There is fire in their eyes. Have we all forgotten that? I love listening to and watching people speak about what they are interested in. Yes, we can all get a bit too much when engaged in our passion and we may need to work on that and find a way to be balanced about it, but that balance comes with experience and maturity and time. Autistic people learn this. They adapt. They find those who believe in something as much as they do. They just do it in a different time frame to what we expect. They aren’t dulled down and dampened so quickly by the system that wants us to all become like sheep.
Society are collectively feeling this. We all know the joke of Brexit, leadership contests and all that jazz. Greta is different because she states this. We feel it but do nothing. Our passion is sooo lacking that we feel frightened to express what we feel but Greta doesn’t. She lets it fly. And oh my, how it sticks. The shit hits the fan. Literally. Obsessions don’t make us disordered or wrong and they certainly shouldn’t be something to contain or restrict. Obsessions are things that we believe in. things that we know in the core of our very being that need to be sorted, organised, shared, talked about, felt and lived in. There is nothing wrong with this. Obsessions are things that keep us going, keep us motivated, keep us fighting the good fight in our own little worlds. Some people’s obsession spill over into the bigger picture. Others stay closer to home but let’s get his straight. WE ALL HAVE THEM ON SOME LEVEL!!!!! So, let’s stop labeling them as wrong or disordered. Let’s celebrate the fire in the belly and light in the eye that comes from expressing and exploring these passions and give Greta a break. She isn’t unstable. She isn’t mentally ill. She is Autistic. Amazingly autistic and beautiful in her own way. Autistic people have a message. Let them share it. Listen. Learn. Love.