A page maintained by Paul Wady.
First entry, 2018.
Hello. My name is Paul Wady, and I started it all. Blame me if you would prefer a different account of autistic people. You know, disabled, defined by deficits, less than a concept of able and normal that never does get defined.
There seemed to me to be a need for a particular kind of representation of autistic people as a race and a kind. A ‘subset’ of humanity. There are many other subsets such as men, women, transgendered and intersectional, LGB etc. Last part of the 20th century has been a golden time for people who do not want to define themselves as part of the homogeneous social and societal groups around them. Now I see it as the turn of my own kind. Hence the use of media as above.
I discovered I was autistic, not a person with or to be defined separately from my own neurodiverse nature, late in life at the age of 41. Neither was I born with or someone who suffers from having the characteristics of NeuroAtypicality, broadly described by that vague umbrella term of ‘autism’. You can read of how that happened via The Guardian Weekend Magazine, October 2005. My friend and I were falsely accused of common assault and by the time we had been acquitted, I had been diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum. I had no idea.
I was always able to recover and heal from anything life threw at me. Which I think makes me one of the army of people who are the source of the growing numbers of NeurAtypical people in the world. You do not have to look, sound and act autistic to be on the spectrum, as one of our many commonly used defining phrases goes.
I am now 55 and live in London with my equally autistic wife, whom I met within three months of my diagnosis. Good job too. We live in South East London in a home dominated by our cat. Or are we his? Many would hold that our house contains three neurodiverse beings.
I joined the National Autistic Society in January 2006 and have worked for them ever since, moving through a variety of roles. My wife and I have friends all over the world on the spectrum. Attending the first two Autscape conferences ever, I found myself joining our scene around the beginning of most of what autistic adults can take for granted now. It was an exciting time to be meeting Dinah Murray and the originator of the Danda charity, Mary Coley, in the flesh and being friends. Damian Milton and Larry Arnold, all manner of Aspies such as Ari Ne Eman on his first visit to the UK and Chen Gershuni from Israel. I have to date met 100 or so of my kind and I intend to spend the rest of my life meeting as many as I can.
Now I know an awful lot of us and read them daily on social media. The upcoming cause and championing of autistic women is one i find to be entirely supported by Aspie men. Gender and sexuality are no barriers and divisions for us. I married one – what more do you want me to do???
Every year I spent an entire month in the city of Edinburgh walking around wearing nothing but pro neurodiversity message t shirts. All day without fail. You get used to it without any kind of ego trip. I’m just telling the truth. In fact it leaves me publicly marked out in crowds. I’m the kind of guy who rather relishes encounters with people and I encourage them in my solo performances.
I come from the city of Liverpool and I started performing there, thinking it was one way to meet like minded creatives. Well it did in the end, but between being 18 and 41 it took a bit of time taking off…
I am pleased to announce that we now have our Arts Council of Great Britain funding. We have a bank account, a mini tour organised and yes, we always want new venues. We remain the same merry gang of neuropunks and have new ideas for shows.
We will be having someone employed to find us bookings and do our administration. We will be paid an honest wage from our budget for our work. This has been an issue with autistic people being used to speak about themselves by the likes of charities, apparently thinking they were doing people a favour giving them a space to do that and did not need to pay them. Well you do, like anyone else who works and prepares what they say and then shares their private lives with you.
Each of us in the company does a lot of thinking and considering about what we do, and will go on to do. For me it has become a way of life. Being a trainer with the Nas means you go around the UK telling people what it is like to be me. I am allowed to say what I want and thus, people in all professions and roles get to hear the best I can summarise of what’s going on in the global autistic scene. Teachers, council (local government) workers, psychiatrist (I had a room full of them in Leatherhead two years ago. I’d crack a joke and there would be this low grumble of thinking and reacting coming off them. I didn’t think I’d get out of the place without a straight jacket on me. I asked one fo them…do you ever meet anyone who does not require psychiatry? She said….no….).
People who run shopping precincts (malls for you 21 st century types) people who work on Gatwick airport. An actual pharmaceutical company. (I did what I could to explain to them that at some point, you end up testing your ‘mind altering’ drugs on people. In order for them to cease to manifest being what they termed as autistic. Which meant you were going that deeply into changing someones brain and behaviour. No risk there, surely…)
I’ve been up to Scotland and all over the UK. I also took my Guerrilla Aspies solo show around for a series of supporter events the Nas staged. This meant I got to play Saint Andrews psychiatric hospital, outside of Nottingham. I considered this to be my ‘San Quentin’ show. 14 inmates, all sectioned aspies. One of them was in the audience and joined in the show. Thank you, and good to meet you sir. The staff all carried assault alarms which were radio linked. So if one person activated theirs, everyones went off. We had about 3 alerts whilst I was there. Racy stuff…
Gateshead seemed cursed. I went there once and got amazing food poisoning due to catching the Noro Virus off someone who had just recovered. An entire night and the next morning being sick and not sleeping. Yet still, 28 hours past my last meal, freezing and shaking I insisted on doing my Nas training for an audience of care and social workers. Man, was I proud of myself. Then it was off in the taxi to Newcastle train station, back to London and a £50 taxi on the company to our house. That is what it is all about.
On a previous trip, I had performed in the Edinburgh festival then got the train to the Gateshead hotel. Next morning I could not speak. I mean I was so hoarse from the shows I’d done and had some sort of infection that was going around the performers. So I gave up and went back to Edinburgh, where I amazed my company colleagues by appearing in a show I was meant to miss.
I used my iPad to tell the audience I could not speak, and everyone else read in for me. Teamwork…
The third grim occasion my colleagues and I had to battle through thick snow to get to the training centre there. We had to give up the next day and head home due to the weather. So I ended up trying to walk back to the train, with bad sciatica at that point, through tons of white doom. I gave up and they got me a taxi…
Did I mention I am getting on? I am now 55 and have achieved the ambition I gave up on around 1988. That’s a story in itself. I gave a talk about this aspect of my life in an arts event in Holborn last sunday, and have it on film. I found a way of making my dreams come true, which meant I then had to live in the post – fantasy became reality phase. Since 2015 I’ve performed each year in Edinburgh festival and did the Brighton one one my own in 2016. We as a company first started there in 2018.
The talk was meant to explain that there was a period of the dreams, followed by a huge one where you stopped doing that and found the ideas you entertained silly. Then I made the shows and my book, happen. Then you found yourself having done those things at the end of that process. Okay, who are you then? How do you feel? What direction does your life go in, after you marry the prince and live happily ever after? It’s just not that simple that the story ends on a good note. People go on. I mean it’s all good and I am not complaining.
The main issue arising is for me, how much did my work contribute to the history of autistic self advocacy? Nowadays with the internet you can have retentions to everything you post being global. These things do not last forever, but has my work done and been good enough to dent a chink in the wall of history? Did I achieve a better future for us all, or help to some degree to point everything in the right direction. This is the thing.
Any feedback anyone can give us all is appreciated. But beware that any onslaught of writing, at great length, may not get the effect you desire or expect. Just because you have a concept and experience of what you mean and what effect you want, it does not mean others share it. Believe me when I say that after 14 years in the neurodiversity self advocacy game, this is something that needs be spelt out.
More January – the infamous Spectator Article.
Last week a bizarre article was printed in the Spectator article. An autistic man who would rather not be autistic penned a piece, that challenges the readers maturity to decipher. The poor man gives a lot away about how his life is, and how he would rather it was.
I made a complaint to the Independent Press Commission which is currently being processed by them. Here is my letter to the Spectator, which I think covers many issues. I have a huge nearly 5,000 word version of this what was part of my complaint, but that is a thing for the future.
I am working with a number of other autistic self-advocates to initiate an action through the IPSO, against The Spectator over your ‘The danger of ‘neurodiversity’ article of the 19th January this year.
It is essentially, a paranoid fantasy piece. Neurodiversity advocates are just scattered individuals who want to be positive about their identities. His ‘movement’ is nothing more than a growing army of adults who are trying to help everyone. Are we not allowed to have our own opinions? Mitchell says no.
Mitchell’s descriptions of our aggressive behaviours are in reality, how he sees people arguing with himself on social media, as well as others he identifies with. It is not physically possible to prevent parents doing anything to their children via the internet, let alone if they want to pay for treatments they think will stop them being autistic. Get all the help you want – we need it too.
Neurodiversity advocates believe the very concept of ‘curing’ autism is a fantasy and that support and understanding is the way forward. It is that simple. Further, Mitchell uses the term ‘autism’ is as if it were a finite and definitely known thing. In fact the term merely denotes a set of characteristics or is seen as a sub set of Neuro-atypicality. it depends who you talk to. It is also slang for being Neurodiverse. Science has not decided what exactly is going on in the brain. Where does he get his certainty?
His absolute and unimpeachable tone has deeply upset and offended neurodiverse people, who are just trying to make it through life and gain understanding. Try and find cures and get help all you want – good luck we say. But if that fails, we the neurodiverse are here to support your family and yourself with a positive identity and the best scenarios that parents could wish upon their children as they grow older.
Well, as you can see the piece was relevant to the companies work, as it basically said that autistics who do not believe in cures and say so, are trying to forcibly block treatments and supports for children and autistics who do not want to be autistics. Oh and any kind of support. Which is ridiculous. What are we doing – blockading clinics and putting picket lines across universities?
The Spectator makes its living from inflammatory articles and they did well with this one. I see it as a battle cry to challenge the views of autistic people. If you consider how vulnerable we invariably are, you will appreciate my concerns.
The company remain as neutral as they can over this. It is mainly myself who will engage with such things in order to maintain that political neutrality. But I think that such things drag people into debates and confrontations whether they want them or not.
So in conclusion the work has just begun, to address the lobby of parents seeking support and cures, and the small group of autistic people begging to be turned into people that they were not born to be. Time will tell of course. I for one am glad I see neuroatypicality as a hereditary reality and am entirely neutral about its impact on everyone. It is neither a good nor bad thing for me. It’s just a fact of life and the individual has to do the best they can with it.
Any kind of support is surely to be attempted. But are there harmful things out there that may be done to autistics, in the name of caring, help and love? Ah, I won’t go in to the list of controversial treatments. But its there and the debates are not dying off around all the things I could name.
Neither is the number of self advocates, or the ‘neurodiversity movement’ the author mentions in his piece in the Spectator. Which sounds like S.P.E.C.R.E. or some card carrying organisation. It’s just a load of individual autistic people trying to be positive about their identities and saying so. So far, no one has possession of a shotgun and the address of Autism Speaks. Stay tuned… 😉
If you look at the drama work of other autistic people, its usually the product of a lot of workshopping about their lives. You then get dramatic pieces in which they go on about their sensory issues and how the world does not understand them. You get representations of square pegs in the round holes of human society.
You get the constant referencing of a non autistic world in which everyone else relates to each other, and can have jobs and relationships. There is this constant theme that autistic people do not have the luxury of the peace of mind and stability that the non autistic have. This is reinforced by the eternal and universal model of non-definable-as-autistic people being normal – and autistics having a disorder relative to them.
I get this creepy feeling now, after all these years. Is it that simple in life?
This is one reason why we are seen as some niche mental disorder, and there is nothing else involved. No. Autistic people are not some new thing about a bunch of afflicted children. If you are old enough and been around long enough you look back and realise just how many of us must have been or may have been around all the time, but no one knew.
There has been suffering okay, but due to hiding and masking. I would go as far as to say that an entire sub set of humanity, a sub culture manifest in may ways such as science fiction fandom or niche interest groups, or even the civil service and academia and religion, have never known who and what they were.
In which case they have all lived in fear of themselves, and have either accepted their eccentric natures (me) or suffered for the lack of not being ‘normal’. This explains the titles of the shows I have innovated (I love that term) Guerilla Aspies my solo show, and Stealth Aspies the company. There was a need to express how hidden and suppressed a minority we are.
Representations of autistic people as ALWAYS about stimming, ocd, adhd, etc and how awful they are, or get in the way, or you ‘manage’ around them are simply not enough. They are just a fraction of the greater whole. There is so much more to say about the experience of being an autistic person. In fact that is one reason I use the term. It’s bigger than a lot of boo hoo, medical model stuff.
This is what we strive to discover as much as portray.
I will keep saying this. Diagnosis needs to factor in personality, intelligence, character, masking and social skills.