Saturday, January 30, 2021

I'm back! Reflections on Change and Growth

 Wow! Has it really been two years since I last updated this blog?? Bad Adam! *Smacks himself with a rolled up newspaper*

...erm... right.

All joking aside, between focusing more on the Differently Wired Facebook page, starting a YouTube channel, working on a major upcoming writing project of mine, and just...well...2020 in general *shudders* it occurred to me that I kinda let this blog fall by the wayside. Because of that, I wanted to take this opportunity to renew, revisit, and bring it back! After all, a neurodiversity activist like myself needs a place to ramble, rave, and rant politically, doesn't he?

Psst - the answer is yes!

The truth is, alot has changed for me in the two years since I posted my last article about alternatives to ABA. I've grown as an activist, changed my stances on some things, met some amazing fellow neurodivergent folks, and just really come into my own in a way I didn't think possible before. It's led me to want to write this post as much to reactivate the blog as to both clarify and share these new developments with you. But what are these changes and growth points, you may ask? 

First of all - the biggie. I've decided to stop referring to myself as an Aspie. This is something that had already begun even back in 2019, but if anything it's just accelerated since. Truthfully, I never used the term out of any belief in supremacy, nor did I ever think Hans Asperger was some kind of saviour (I have some deep DEEP concerns about the man but that's a rant for another day) - for me, it was always just a personal thing. It took me almost 15 years to even begin to accept the label Asperger's for myself because of lots of internalized ableism, so I wasn't quite ready to give it up just yet. It felt like something I'd fought hard and earned about my identity, so while I understood it wasn't any different than autism, I used it to honour that struggle towards self acceptance. Writing this blog and my adventures in Neurodiversity were actually a BIG reason why I was even able to do that to begin with, and now this feels like the next logical step. I will still refer to Asperger's in a historical context when discussing my own life and history, but I think it's important for us to move forward as the AUTISTIC community, and as a person who runs an online platform (even if it is tiny)? I can't help but be reminded of the words of Ben Parker from Spider-Man: "With great power comes great responsibility." I want to be inclusive towards our entire community, so this is a small but personally significant way I'm choosing to do that.

Next, I wanted to offer a clarification on two of my previous blog posts - the ABA ones specifically. I do think my overall message was pretty clear, but looking back I can see some people thinking I was a little soft and wishy washy at points. They were written for parent readers primarily, so I would just like to reiterate something for everyone, be you parent or fellow neurodivergent folks:

ABA is bad. Behaviourism...especially with no regard for the person's mental state, agency, or the baddest of bad news bears. Any suggestions I offered to mitigate being stuck with it, while valid, are just band aids. My ultimate goal is to reform and declaw ABA to the point of nonexistence. To kill it by educating, informing, offering mitigating strategies to those stuck with it, and hopefully causing people to change their minds about the whole thing in the process. Please don't interpret my approach as a validation of it. It's the farthest thing from! I just know what a big battle we have ahead on bringing true meaningful change to the way our society provides support for autistics, and this is my small way to help with that. At the end of the day, I am trying to kill it with fire, I just favour a slow burn that promotes learning and alternatives alongside the blaze.

For my third and final point, I want to end off on a cool note - I've been gaining a far deeper understanding of gender and how it applies to myself over the last few years! I've come to realize that ethical nonmonogamy works best for my neurodivergent brain as a relationship style, and I've discovered that my experience of maleness is different from that of others. It's coloured inextricably by my being autistic, which led me to discover a great new term - autigender! It's been a wild ride and I will definitely talk more about all of that in a future post, but I just wanted to share that here!

I guess the ultimate point of this rambling and raving piece is that growth is a good thing and often happens without our being aware of it. It's okay to look back at past opinions and think "I don't believe that any more and here's why" or "I can see how I wasn't so clear, and I want to explain better." After all, changing your mind based on the presence of new data is the whole point of the scientific method to begin with, and the posts on this blog tell a story of one autistic dude's growth over almost a decade, so there are bound to be things that, looking back, are cringy. It's part of the journey.

And I'm grateful to all of you for making it with me! 

Yours in diversity,

Adam Michael

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