A Time to Lead

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This may be the most serious post I’ve written to date, though I think my post about having autism making you a higher chance of being abused comes pretty close. But I’d like to start with an important public announcement from my clothing (I know that sounds strange, but stay with me here). I have a lot of t-shirts with sayings on them, some of them are meant to be funny, but they have messages. This shirt’s saying feels like a call to action right now: Introverts unite, separately, in your own homes.

This is where most of us are finding ourselves right now. As I write this, my home state of Florida, where I still reside, is in virtual lockdown. A lot of schools are cancelled for a month-this greatly affects my older sister who works at the Catholic school her three children attend. The exercise park near my house was a virtual ghost town last weekend. The small historical museum and the library near my house are closed for the rest of the month. A high school performance we were going to was cancelled. I’ve even stopped going to my health club as a precaution. I also play Pokemon Go, and a big walk that was supposed to happen yesterday was cancelled. It just feels like wherever I go or look, Armageddon is looming. Now I know how it feels to be in an apocalypse movie.

There’s not much of anything funny that can be said about the statistics of the coronavirus, but I tend to make jokes to what my mom calls “whistling in the graveyard”-doing what it takes to get through a scary situation. When 9/11 happened, I was only 7 and in second grade but I’m told this is what it felt like afterwards, and it does not feel good. Nobody knows what’s going to happen next. But it’s time to recognize one real fact for spectrum people: this current situation won’t change our lives much and we actually have quite a few things to teach in these circumstances.

Most people aren’t used to the isolation and way of life which is now a universal reality-but we people on the autism spectrum are used to being on our own, working from our homes and finding community online with social media, gaming, and virtual gatherings, though I tend to benefit from actual social interaction myself, so despite being on the spectrum, I’m finding this forced isolation and social distancing hard to deal with. The only thing that’s really changed for us is there are too many people in our houses on voluntary quarantine, or dealing with online classes that have been hastily designed by schoolteachers who would otherwise teach this content in their own classrooms. The main change for us is losing guaranteed privacy and a vague sense of panic about something we can’t define, change or fight. This is a lot like the Pilgrims when they first landed in Plymouth or the pioneers crossing the country westward.

So this will be the first in a series of posts about how people with autism like ourselves can be leaders and teachers in these times of uncertainty. I’ll be writing about how we’ll help de-socialize our friends who live differently than we do and how to assist them in building skills to get through all of this. For now, though, the main idea is to do what the spectrum mind can do automatically: ignore the world and live in your own head.

Now we all know that reality can’t be ignored. So after precautions are taken, we’ll be baptized in new lives by buying hand sanitizer, and for crazy reasons, stocking up on toilet paper to visit the restroom at least 50 times a day, and we’ll help people build a world of their own making in their heads. Turn the news off and focus on other interests of yours, no matter how limited or quirky they may be. If there was a time for quirkiness to become a distraction, this would be it. So show the timid, frightened and panicked there is a safe place to be in times like these and it’s right in their own minds, focusing on a world of their own, like the mind has been doing for years. It’s time to unite the introverts and get them to lead the way to calmness and coping by showing in our own minds there is a world all our own we control, and noting can affect it unless we allow it to enter. As the poem Invictus says “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul”. Time to lead by being who we are. More later but peace be with you for now. For a happier note, I’d like to close with the song “Pure Imagination” from “Willy Wonka” which is what I feel is the motto of spectrum people in these times.

Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination

Take a look and you’ll see into your imagination

We’ll begin with a spin traveling in a world of my creation

What we’ll see will defy explanation

If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it

Anything you want to, do it

Want to change the world? There’s nothing to it

There is no place I know to compare with pure imagination

Living there, you’ll be free, if you truly wish to be