Autistic Pride Day: Larry Arnold/Dragon

14 Jun

As part of a continuing mini-series leading up to Autistic Pride day on the 18th June, I’d like to present two contrasting pieces. One from a perspective of youth, idealism and hope and the other from experience and wisdom.

Larry Arnold was one of the first autistic ‘voices’ I heard and his unique style and intelligence made me want to read as much as possible about autism as I could.

Dragon, whos screen-name I use rather than his real name due to his age, is a 12 year old British autistic. I’ll quote him first:

— Dragon Begins —

I think autistic pride day is a good time to express how you really feel about being autistic, its a chance to express our pride about it. In the past I felt like my autism was a disability, now I know its just a difference, and its something to be proud of. In the future I hope that the world will be a better place for autistics to live in. People should respect that were aren’t people with a disease.

— Dragon Ends —

And now Larry:

— Larry Arnold Begins —

I am not altogether sure what to make of the notion of autistic pride day, as in general I have spoken out against specific awareness weeks, as promoting the notion that all you need do is concern yourself about some specific issue at a specific time of year and then let it lie.

The same goes for notions of autistic pride, if I were only proud for one day, what would that achieve? Except when the worries of the world crowd me in and I am feeling a sense of despair, I am proud of what I am, autism being part of that. My own position on the autistic spectrum is not something I usually shy away from and try to hide. I am autistic and I do not care who knows it. At this stage in my career it would be pretty hard to hide it from any prospective employer or public authority as it is out there on the web and on video in all its glory. In a way I have no choice but to be proud.

I do not really know if one day “hits” will achieve anything outside of the autistic community as it currently exists, as I think we are still at the beginnings of forging any kind of credible movement, and facing a lot of obstacles from big money at the moment.

How can we make a bigger splash than the dollars and slick publicity put about by those who would like nothing better than to eliminate us from the planet, and probably expunge us from history too?

I think that can only come from being out and open about being autistic, and not trying to fit in all the time or making ridiculos compromises that smother our autism.

I can’t help being critical of some of the “big names” in Autism for leaning too close to those who would deny our existance by appearing at their events, but again I sometimes fear I am becoming too compromised myself.

I don’t think there is any badge of autism or colour of autism (except for the rainbow) I show my individuality and pride by not becoming part of the crowd, perhaps I am a Groucho Marxist, not wanting to belong to any club that would have me as a member, or wanting to march gloriosly out of step with everyone aware that marching together out of step is a paradox and the biggest paradox for me is wanting a world where it does not matter if I am autistic or not, just that I am and entitled to be in the world.

For those who have the opportunity to do something communal, and wave an autistic flag together, go for it, you don’t need old sixties and seventies relics like me making up your minds for you.

— Larry Arnold Ends —

Thanks to both. Hope and wisdom on one page – bookmark this one people as its an accomplishment I won’t be able to match on my own ;o)

6 Responses to “Autistic Pride Day: Larry Arnold/Dragon”

  1. Camille June 15, 2005 at 08:17 #

    Nice essay, Larry. I thought you might hold forth on what a year is on some satellite of Jupiter.

    An insightful person once compared organizing autistics to herding cats. 🙂 Try getting cats to march to a drum!


  2. I live in Finland.

    The idea of Autistic Pride Day here would be completely ridiculed.

    Sad, because I have no shame at being autistic. Nor should I have.

    However, I am seen by my support workers as non-compliant, because of a particular issue over which my expertise as a psychologist forbids me from giving even a millimetre… and – me being autistic – I cannot be a psychologist; which is not an attitude confined to Finnish oligarchy slaves…


    Autistic; Psychologist; Musician; Father of the most beautiful (Aspie) girl in the world!

    Very proud of it all.

  3. Kev June 15, 2005 at 12:24 #

    Thats terrible David. In the UK we’re used to thinking of the Scandanavian countries as being progressive and forward- thinking. That has really shocked me.

  4. Yes, Kevin… it is terrible.

    Problem is that Finland is in Norden, but not Scandinavia… it picks up form other countries and then totally misapplies in Finland. Finland is one huge neurotic organisation, as defined by Kets de Vries & Miller in the mid-80s. If it were progressive, it would certainly not be amongst the top countries in the world for mental health problems, alcohol dependency and suicides … as in these occurring overmuch.

    The people providing my support think they are good at what they do, and very forward thinking… and for FInland, I suppose they are; but compared to my training (done at a university in the UK), they’re nowhere near an acceptable level of quality in how they do things. This is basically a fault of the system: anything that is from outside the country is rejected, especially if it is better than something that the system provides.

    I taught a course in January, and the people taking part in it had already had training worth about 60 CATS points (supposedly equivalent to Birmingham University’s UnivCertASDs) from the best training establishment in Finland (Keskuspuisto). I started the course and taught it at about honours level, and went over the participants’ heads immediately. Had to redesign the course in front of them (literally!). Not one part of their Keskuspuisto training had shown them how to assess a client’s difficulties or needs; they had not been shown anything of how to develop a service plan with their client’s needs and desires in mind; and nor had they been shown that there was better knowledge in terms of understanding oneself and one’s client in relation to one another except by having a Parent-Child (i.e., crossed) transaction (TA; Byrne).

    This is a country that used to be part of Russia, and still thinks it is. They still have entrance exams here. A recent study showed that the universities provisions for disabled students were at a level well below the UK and Norway, and offered (at best!) very poor provision in things not necessary to succeed as a disabled student… and very poorly (i.e., never) on the sorts of things that are considered to be appropriate alternatives for such students.

    I’m doing a talk at a conference in August in Tampere, and my topics are essentially about student survival in higher education… and how to ensure it.

    Not one professional trained in a Finnish univesity will take what I say seriously (but those trained in polytechnics here actually DO!!!!).

    Not really so progressive, this Finland place….

    Sad. They don’t know here about Autistic Pride Day!

  5. Kev June 16, 2005 at 14:37 #

    Incredible. Also speaks volumes about my assumptions about Finland and my (awful) knowledge of Geography!

    “Not one professional trained in a Finnish university will take what I say seriously”

    It beggars belief. Really, truly beggars belief. I’m at a loss for words. How does someone even _begin_ to address such endemic prejudice?

  6. I’m a psychologist with a strong interest in the social psychology of things, and I have no clue… when I was married, my then-wife rang the foreign students’ advisor at Helsinki university to discuss the issue with them, regarding support for someone with a diagnosis of AS, dyslexia and dyspraxia. The woman there asked her how the hell I thought I’d get to become a psychologist with those diagnoses.

    Where I am now… they saw it as a useful part of the entrance qualifications I offered! They gave me BA-status (because I was accepted as a postgraduate psychologist on the basis of my studies, equal in depth and breadth to a BA degree, with 50% of studies in psychology) and I have a pending award which is to become part of the MEd for which I’m registered. How hard would it have been for a university in Finland to do this, if a UK university could find a way to admit a very-non-traditional student in?!

    I gave up believing in the concept of a Finnish university that was also a good one (in terms of what it could offer students in disabling situations). When I applied to Oulu university, I found that the faculty dean was such a nasty person that she was not prepared under any circumstances to allow entry on the basis of achievements in universities elsewhere (which is an option one can apply to enter university on!)… I found myself being admitted as an exchange student… weird, since I’d been living in Finland for two years by then.

    The whole thing really is anal retentive; I have met nice people here, don’t get me wrong…. but the nice and intelligent ones are not necessarily the ones in a position to do much more than sympathise… the system has messed them around too.

    Short of a Guy Fawkesian approach, I really can’t see much of a way forward…

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