Happy Autism Awareness Day! Today (Thursday the 2nd of April) is Autism Awareness Day. The 22nd of March to the 2nd of April was Autism Awareness Week, and April is Autism Awareness Month. They exist inside one another like Russian nesting dolls. This really confused me at first, but just roll with it. Autism awareness is a good thing, as long as people are receiving the right information. A friend of mine recently commented that it should be Autism Acceptance Day instead of Autism Awareness Day. I couldn’t agree more. But to accept something, you first need to be aware of it. That’s where my final poem for Autism Awareness Week comes in. This is another poem by Tito. At the time he wrote it, Tito was a non-verbal child with severe classical autism. He can express himself very eloquently through the written word, and his poems offer unique insight into autism, reminding us that non-verbal autistics aren’t any less human or intelligent than neurotypicals. They see the world differently, but I think that is a beautiful thing. It certainly feeds into Tito’s writing and means his work is startlingly original.

Poem 5

Long long ago

When nothing was there

And God got bored with himself

He made everything

Then he got bored

With everything that was perfect

And so planned to make some distortions

So he made some like me

Who as they say have lost their minds

As I sat on the swing in the playground

The teachers words tossed in the air

Like bubbles of soap all around me

I did not play with them by waving them away

But I tried to feel them by waving them in and out

When I walked out of the classroom

The tail of words followed me

Words made of letters

Crawling like ants

In a disciplined row

This poem is by Tito Rajarshi Maukhopadhyaya and can be found in The Mind Tree, which you can purchase here:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mind-Tree-Miraculous-Breaks-Silence/dp/1611450020/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1427975546&sr=1-1&keywords=the+mind+tree

I chose this poem because I felt the idea of God making Tito because he was ‘bored with everything perfect’ supported the neuro-diversity model of autism. This model suggests that differences in neural pathways are not a disability, but rather a natural form of diversity that keeps things interesting, just as diversity in race, culture and sexual orientation keeps things interesting. Differences in race, culture and sexual orientation have also been pathologised in the past. Letters ‘crawling like ants in a disciplined row’ is a very powerful image and reminds the reader of one of the strengths of autism: the ability to hone in and focus on the tiny details that others might not notice, thus viewing the world in a much more intense manner. In this case, the intense focus on detail seems to prevent Tito from viewing words as a whole, causing a difficulty in communication. The image of teachers words being tossed in the air ‘like bubbles of soap all around me’ reminds us that autistic people often find it difficult to focus on other people’s speech. When working with children with Kanners or classical autism I tend to speak in short, simple sentences. This is not because they lack intelligence, but because it takes them longer to process information and they can become overloaded quickly. Autistic people require a slightly different approach if we are to function to the best of our abilities. But we are just different, not less.

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