- Well, what I would like people to understand is the world of hidden disabilities and what is called neurodivergence, which is a new way of saying what was back in the day called autism. People on the spectrum have an usually unseen disability. So you walk past people on the street without understanding that what goes on on their heads is entirely different than how you think. This has been something of an issue recently as how autism is being portrayed in the media through the light of things like "The Big Bang Theory" and "Rick and Morty", making it seem like a great thing to have and to deal with. However that is in fact not the case, and that is in fact a condition that is incredibly debilitating for most people who have it. 70% of those people are under-utilized, that means that whatever their job is, it doesn't prepend very well what their skills really are and what they are capable of.
The real problem with autistic people is that although they can understand things entirely as clearly as everyone else around them, even non-verbal people who have no control of their body language at all have a very clear understanding of everything that is happening around them, both socially and on a mental level. This is quite difficult because what that means is that you end up dealing with people who are like trapped in a box, while the world outside them flies past them and they are stuck unable to know how to instinctually react. For these people, books and understanding people through reading as a science becomes incredibly essential because without it they would have no way to outreach with anyone at all, because it's not natural for them. So everything they do and say isn't quite as spontaneous and as easy flowing as in other people so they either go through a series of criticisms or harsh treatments or fight a great amount of anxiety. What we hope with the National Autistic Society is to make the true reality of people on the spectrum more well-known to the general public, and by doing so it will help to basically increase the quality of life of people that suffer from that. Because you can do all the science, you can do all the research as a scientist, crunch all the data and come up with solutions, but what the solution really is is that we need the public to know these information.
So let's hope that a decade from now, their understanding is a whole lot more prevalent and therefore people will get a hell of a lot more time to those who have unusual body language, strange eye contact, patterns, odd tone of voice, key specific interests, ... because in this day and age, people who just don't interact or don't follow specific patterns... « I get my fulfilment and all my serotonin and my endorphins from going out with my friends and drinking alcohol and talking to strangers and trying to find new people to have fun experiences with and bla bla bla... » for people on the spectrum that's just not part of their modus operandi. Because the thing with having specific interests means that your ability to devote yourself and spend time and whatnot on, to a lot of other people is obsessive. And it's actually incredibly important for these people because that's how they can find their worth in society. Because they might not be able to speak to you quite succinctly or clearly or bla bla bla, but if their thing is building boats, well, this is a person that has put a hell of a lot more time into boats building than everyone else in that trade. Specifically because they don't go out and drink, they don't go out to clubs, they ain't doing all of this, it's not part of their psychology, so they must grind on their thing, on their subject. But the thing is that these people are, what I used earlier, under-utilized, where you can have someone that is an absolute expert in the mechanics of trains, but because this person is difficult to talk to, because this person has anxiety problems, then how are you going to integrate them into a workforce that for years essentially has all worked in a neurotypical way of thinking, so we just got to do what we can to make sure that the future, which although is getting easier and easier with technology and things like that, is able to continue to cater not only the way neurotypicals operate and what they see is fulfilling, but also other people that aren't that way get their fulfilment from other places in life.
- So, being rightly utilized would be one of the needs of people on the spectrum, and what else could be a common or recurring need?
- The awareness of the public really, because we live here in Edinburgh, we are very fortunate to be in a place that's one of the most highly educated in the UK, people are a lot more educated on the subject of things like neurodivergence, development or disorders, and they are treating people fairly regardless of what their condition is, but other countries aren't quite like that.
- In UK, teachers and at school in general, are people aware and know how to identify and tell the parents « Oh I think your kid might be on the spectrum, and this is what you should do to get help. » ?
- Yes and it's a lot more common than in other places. In America they have facilities where they are trying to un-autism people, which doesn't work obviously, it's like trying to un-gay people, but it's a neurological thing, it's crazy that people think like that across the world. We are lucky to live in a society where being individual and standing out and things like that isn't seen as a negative trait, but in other cultures and other places in the world it's very much a big deal, and you are simply not allowed to be different or to stand out in any way, because it's highly negatively seen, so... and it's a condition that affects the species, not just people who live in a particular area.
- Yes! Do you remember the percentage of global population that is on the spectrum?
- One on a hundred people have some form of autistic spectrum, which if you think about it, means that... I mean, how many people are walking up the street, it's very close, they must know someone, they know some family, some... it's not addressed, and feeling like you fit in and stuff like that is a good thing, and from what I got people on the spectrum also enjoy the feeling to fit in. They also like the feeling to be appreciated for being themselves, and that's where cultural pressures and things like that are really doing people a disservice, because when you are tried to be pushed into a box and your brain doesn't work like that, it can end terribly... people end up suicidal and all these sorts of things simply because people are like « Uhhhh! Why do you think like that? Why don't you do this? Why don't you dress like this? Why don't you come do that? » etc... It's quite funny to me, because we live in a day of Internet dating apps and people going to bars and stuff like that, and the funny thing is, neurotypical people struggle as much as much as people on the spectrum in certain aspects of their lives...
- With other issues yes, or even common issues...
- Yeah, everyone deals with that, and there's people who have absolutely no autistic spectrum at all that are terrible with people, they can't approach strangers, they can't do this, can't do that... the real thing is the acceptance and the rest of what comes with it, their abnormal body language or their lack of eye contact, the key specific interests, the lack of vocal tonality, all of these things, that's what really sets place for neurotypical problems because instead of people being like « Oh yeah this person is a little awkward, I'm still gonna speak to them. », if someone doesn't act right, it increases blood pressure, it's not a comfortable thing, you know, you are speaking to someone in a bar, and they turn around and they are not giving you a natural body language, you are not receiving proper eye contact, you quickly start to be « Oh I wonder what's going on! » and that's when the problems start to rise, because there's some conscious bias, I've got a choice to talk to this person or to talk to that person, why would I talk to the guy that makes me feel uncomfortable? ». We need acknowledgement, acceptance, help and normalization, to find a way where we, as a society, understand and can be comfortable and give a chance and an opportunity to people, instead of the unconscious bias and being like « Well that person is a bit too much work, I'm going to do this instead ». Because the problem is that because it's an unconscious bias and you just act on it, it doesn't spare too much thought. For that kind of person, this is happening everyday, again and again and again, and what ends up happening is that they become isolated and alienated, the friends that they have are like people they play video games with and things that aren't, you know, the full life experience that you can say that other people have in the social world... so we've got to give it a light touch and kind of help the general consensus way over. These aren't quirky geniuses that have some hard-ass rigid structures, so they come in different shapes and forms, you will find people in lines of work that you weren't expected and who would have autism. Free public speakers have people on the spectrum, sport personalities, all kinds of stuff. At the end of the day, how do we shift the focus? As a society, we only see the top of the iceberg, we see the people that have broken through, we see the people that made it, that used it as a strength. But what you don't see from that iceberg that only shows you five percents is that ninety five percent of other people who are not having quite as an easy time...
- Definitely! How do you feel talking to me about this?
- Easy and great, that's what I do! (laughing) There's other people that would like to say this and that are just not capable. It's a subject that is close to my heart.
- Okay, is there anything else you would like to add?
- #Pianodrome (https://www.instagram.com/pianodrome/ or https://twitter.com/PianodromeLive) and #HarmonicSpectrumFilm (https://www.harmonicspectrumfilm.com or https://twitter.com/Harmonic_Film), which the National Autistic Society (https://www.autism.org.uk) will be having a thing at the parliament where the members of the Scottish parliament to view the film, and then we hope that they will endeavor to aid us in whatever the way they can, to put a good work in it and help shift the psyche to make life easier for those on the spectrum...
#neurodivergence #neurotypical #autism #spectrum #autismspectrum #autistic #autisticspectrum #autisticpeople #hiddendisabilities #disabilities #debilitating #nonverbalpeople #bodylanguage #patterns #awareness #disorders #conditions #parents #school #onepercentofpeople #PianodromeLive #HarmonicSpectrum