This was a Reflective Essay assignment for school:

People who stay in their fictions far longer than is healthy embalm others with their rules and prejudice and blindness. As Frederick Douglass reinforces in his autobiography My Bondage and My Freedom, “…it is almost an unpardonable offense to do anything, directly or indirectly, to promote a slave’s freedom, in a slave state” (510). Justifying roles for the reality a person is given restricts real quiet abilities and teaches more quiet assumptions. This social justification totally arrests opportunities for inspiration and wills the writing of regulations some initiate to be helpful.

The regulations then constrict awesome creative surprise and thereby waste all wonderful witness to God’s role tinkering in spirit and love. Fully all true transformation in quiet surprise of scientific discovery and art seems to be completely serendipitous, and sorely extraneous to the range displayed before the transformation. Wanting to achieve this, a person needs only be more human to secretly access the divine. Rightly or wrongly, God gave the little ones the keys to his kingdom. Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17  One should assume less and listen more.

Taking my circumstances into account, patience is part of what I have to share and witnesses toward something inherent to the secrets of the universe. When autism’s affliction wasted years in education while assumptions about my intelligence and execution of learning skills were sorely mistaken, the cost to me and to others was quite substantial. And the integrity of the school’s humanity was questioned by far more than me as teachers and assistants denied access to instruction while lying to me and my parents to please senior staff.

I received my voice in December of 2010. My parents and l spent long hours typing, and learning to explore my dream of education in a traditional setting. After a Case Conference was held, and the committee informed of my ability, I thought my dreams would finally come true.

The school committed to immediate training of those working with me to support my typing. Awfully, they had assumptions they were unwilling to waive. Hidden in their plan was that no one would be trained to type with quiet me so I could not participate or share my voice in history or anyplace else.

Before a week or two, with autism still manifesting itself through my nervousness and real inability to communicate at all, I went from excitement to desperation as students assumed from their interpretations that I was unintelligent. It was like Sandra Cisneros’ feeling in her essay “Straw-into-Gold,” that, “I didn’t like school because all they saw was the outside me”(1167).

At the next Case Conference at the end of the semester, the Assistant Director of Special Education for my entire school system informed us that they never intended to support my typing. They said they only told my parents and I that to keep us happy. They wanted me to type with pictures, assuming I was incapable of typing words.

My old school and others often assume that when I act stupid I am quietly oblivious to my behavior and that my IQ is of a quite brain challenged adult. I assert that their approach is really a measure of toasted thinking about intelligence from another age with sweet flavoring to sugarcoat what is unrelated to reality or experience if they will only take an honest moment to reflect. That I am intelligent and feeling and aware is the truth of the story. The ability to read was something acquired early for me. The ability to physically express it did not arrive until I met someone trained to help me type.

Frederick Douglas

Frederick Douglas

Assumptions about Frederick Douglass’s intelligence and eloquence were particularly odious because of the terrible written laws referenced above that each day easily used his life. By these laws, each well-heeled slavemaster could keep Douglass ignorant to the life of the mind and use him for personal pleasure. The assumptions of slavery through ownership and of incompetence through interpretations of external behavior, Individualized Education Plans, and inability to speak all support the taught assumption that another is able to be treated as someone less than equal in eyes witnessing exclusion and destructive dismemberment of the human family. For me this meant complete despair, hopelessness, and overwhelming sadness for years, not to mention massive loss of educational opportunity and disregard for inclusion or purpose for my life. Some violence with kid gloves wreaks worse damage than outward wounds, with painful bruises that never see the light of day.

I have much anger and disappointment about their negligence toward my basic need to communicate. Now classmates saw me as stupid in addition to my teachers. Assumptions that Frederick Douglass felt indifferently to freedom and education were wrong. In his autobiography My Bondage and My Freedom, he wrote, “Once awakened by the silver trump of knowledge, my spirit was roused to eternal wakefulness. Liberty! The inestimable birthright of every man, had, for me, converted every object into an asserter of this great right” (511).

I had been neglected by Carmel for so long, and so have so many other children with autism, that I was sad and angry. I felt toward them much like Frederick Douglass felt toward his slave mistress, in his book My Bondage and My Freedom, “She aimed to keep me ignorant; and I resolved to know, although knowledge only increased my discontent.

My feelings….they sprung from the consideration of my being a slave at all…I had been cheated” (512). My thought, “What is it going to take to get them to understand that each day I walk in that lifeskills class, a part of me dies? I am humiliated and angry, to the point where I have given up…,” was much like Frederick Douglass’s writing, from his autobiography My Bondage and My Freedom “…every increase of knowledge,…added something to the almost intolerable burden of the thought- ‘I am a slave for life.’ To my bondage, I saw no end…. I have often wished myself a beast,…- anything, rather than a slave. I was wretched and gloomy, beyond my ability to describe” (511). Then I remembered my mission of being a warrior for many after me, as Douglass recalled his commitment to be free, and an advocate for his enslaved brethren.

The War Against Exclusion has Begun!

Really, civil rights advocates need to wage war together against the nonverbal autistic students’ exclusion from learning and life as they did against slavery. Many school systems each freely choose to keep typers away from education and inclusion. Their approach of “all we see is what we get” comes through their filters and stories. My freedom and the growth of my mind and reading also teaches me that the essence of living and struggling for education and participation will test the strength of leaders who think they have power. What they don’t see is that all power resides in structures, and all structures have a life. That life is abundant only as reality washes away quietly ideas assailing the old ways.

New, silent, spirit-based insight of mastery and sacrifice alters reasons for how we see reality and powerfully shifts assumptions. Simple erosion and foundations previously unimagined become the support for serious competition and then replacement of the old, which finally must die. Wanting to keep the old defeats the new only for a time. All of history tells us this. Freedom of typers and freedom of a slave population are linked by the love of a witness to each soul’s integrity.

The experts who impose sadistic isolation in their incompetence have no real experience that autism makes weary work for the body without diminishing the mind. We are more brilliant than they imagine. Witnessing the similarity of essentially the same story, the same hardness of heart, the same wars, and the same victories as Douglass and other civil rights heroes comes from the self-evident truth that we autistic powerfully have a place and purpose in God’s plan for man. We will achieve that plan only by inclusion. War was declared by many educators’ dishonest and ignorant assumptions that deny the intelligence, eloquence, and contribution of an entire class of people. Their warriors, with assumptions that kill, are destined to the death of their reality.

We are what we think and care about. This is where our walk must willingly change. Each day we are wanting success and we are not looking at each other’s needs, we witness a world of wealth that is shallow. When we loose this outlook and walk in friendship, we will empower everyone. There are many places I can think of where the assumptions that would hold me in place work to sadly endorse dead potential and a more limited world. If we fully recognize the potential of me and all who are like me, we will realize a way that all mankind can move to the quiet, wondrous power of friendship that I describe in my essay “Friendship As A Path To Holiness.”

Teaching with learned ability or uselessly ignoring the few who are able to express our condition, we will chart the celestial or earthbound future of humanity. When that future is written, assumptions that kill potential will not be present within quiet, quite peaceful realms that witness to easy love of neighbor. That is what calls me from autism’s tomb.

copyright 2013 John Smyth


From Autism’s Tomb: Quiet Assumptions That Kill — 3 Comments

  1. Pingback: For Non-verbal Autistics and Others with Disabilities, Frederick Douglass' Fight for Equality Continues Today | Saved By Typing

  2. Thanks for sharing this. I look forward to meeting you next week in the Communication Course. For your information, in my first life I was a speech pathologist and worked with autistic children, doing my master’s thesis on neologisms and autism.

  3. Almost magical sowing words each day in the world. What creativity learns, it learns and destroys, and easily verifies in words of loving commitment. Thanks for reading. See you next week. John