MY THREE WORLDS (WALLY)

IN MY WORLD, MY BLACK WORLD OF AUTISM, THERE IS ONLY THE SAMENESS OF CONSTANT ORDER AND THE JUSTICE OF NATURE THAT I ACCEPT AND WITNESS.  OUR WORLD, I NOTICED, IS CHAOTIC, NOISY, AND EXCEPTIONALLY VIOLENT.  HOWEVER, I CAN NOW COPE TO A POINT WITH SOME LEVEL OF ALL OF THIS AS LONG AS I CAN RETREAT, FROM TIME TO TIME, TO MY WORLD OF ORDER AND NATURAL LAW AND ASK APPROPRIATE QUESTIONS ABOUT WHAT I SEE AND HEAR.  THE ABILITY TO COMMUNICATE FROM MY WORLD TO YOUR WORLD HAS MADE IT POSSIBLE FOR ME TO WANT TO LIVE INOUR WORLD AND TO SATISFY MY NEED TO BE AMONG OTHER PEOPLE NO MATTER HOW DIFFERENT WE ARE FROM EACH OTHER.

In my thinking, my reality or my world, when I retreat to it to escape the gaudiness or chaos of _your world_ or of our world, is like taking refuge in a large dark room where there is no light and no voices or sounds from _your world_ or from our world.  To me, this stark contrast between the other _worlds_ that I recognize and frequent, and _my world_ of the quiet still darkness of my autism is reality for me when I return to its pleasing comfort.  _Your world_ to me is quite satisfying when I can cope with it. _Our world, _at times, reaches a yet to be understood crescendo of misunderstandings and inequalities that I cannot tolerate and must escape. Years of constantly moving between my _three worlds_ has made me adept at navigating from one to the other when need be not because I am a transient but because I accept my condition and recognize that I need to get perspective on that which was aggravating me while I was in any one of my three worlds.*

The three _worlds_ are still a part of my reality.  I move between these worlds, or recognize these _worlds_depending on how I might be perceiving reality on any particular day.  I need to maintain these three separate realities or _worlds_ because I think this way I can maintain my autistic identity that is the real me while capitulating to_ your world’s_ requirements to appear to be “normal” or appear to be trying to work toward that goal.  _Our world_ is the dream that I have for us that will include _your world_ and _my world_ on an equal basis.*

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THE TERM “MY WORLD” MEANS MY MENTAL STATE OF BEING, TOTALLY REDUCED TO A PRIMORDIAL LEVEL ON THE OUTSIDE, AND ON THE INSIDE ELEVATED TO THE BRILLIANT MIND WHO IS TRYING TO ESCAPE TO FREEDOM AND TO THE LIGHT THAT I AM AWARE EXISTS ON THE OUTSIDE OF MY BODY.   The brilliant mind on the inside of my body that I and a few others recognize is juxtaposed to the very dull, crude, and ignorant person that many who don’t know me see when they experience Me, especially for the first time.*  I LIVED, OR SHOULD I SAY EXISTED, FOR THE BETTER PART OF 25 YEARS IN THIS STATE, THE STATE OF “MY WORLD,” THE WORLD OF MY MIND AND OF MY IMAGINATION THAT WAS FUELED BY MISINFORMATION AND MISTRUST.

ON MANY OCCASIONS THE INFORMATION THAT I COLLECTED WAS INCORRECT OR ERRONEOUS BECAUSE IT WAS GATHERED BY WAY OF A FAULTY SENSORY SYSTEM.  AS THE INFORMATION WAS FAULTY SO WERE MY CONCLUSIONS OF WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THE WORLD THAT EXISTED JUST OUTSIDE OF MY BODY.  EACH TIME THAT I WANTED TO ASK A QUESTION ABOUT SOMETHING THAT I DIDN’T UNDERSTAND I WAS NOT ABLE AND SO THE PHYSICAL WORLD THAT I LIVED IN WITH YOU GREW MORE DISTANT FROM ME WITH EACH UNANSWERED QUESTION.  I POINT THIS OUT TO YOU SO THAT YOU HAVE A VERY CLEAR UNDERSTANDING THAT I ONLY WANTED TO SHARE THE WORLD WITH YOU AS YOUR EQUAL AND NOT AS SOME HAVE VIEWED THE NONVERBAL AUTISTIC AS BEING PSYCHOTIC AND UNABLE TO LEARN OR TO BE TAUGHT ANYTHING.

THE TERM “YOUR WORLD” IS THE ANTITHESIS OF “MY WORLD.”  THERE WAS A SHARP DISTINCTION IN MY MIND BETWEEN THESE TWO TERMS.  REALIZING THE DIFFERENCE IN MEANING MEANS THAT I UNDERSTAND THE WORLDS THAT I LIVED IN…   IN MY MIND, BEFORE I COULD COMMUNICATE, MY UNDERSTANDING OF YOUR WORLD POINTED TO LOOKING AT PEOPLE AND ALL THAT THEY STOOD  FOR  AS DOING HARM TO ME AND TO MY WORLD.  POINTING THIS OUT NOW IS EASY FOR ME TO DO BECAUSE I NOW CAN REALIZE HOW I VIEWED PEOPLE AS BEING MY ENEMY WITH FEW EXCEPTIONS.  AS I LEARNED TO COMMUNICATE WITH PEOPLE, MY RELUCTANCE TO TRUST THEM DIMINISHED.  I BECAME AWARE THAT I MIGHT HAVE MISINTERPRETED MUCH OF THE INFORMATION THAT I HAD GATHERED ONCE I WAS ABLE TO ASK QUESTIONS AS A RESULT OF USING FC TO COMMUNICATE.

BEFORE I COULD COMMUNICATE, YOUR WORLD WAS TOO BIG FOR ME TO FULLY COMPREHEND THE NUANCES AND HIDDEN MEANINGS OF YOUR LANGUAGE BOTH VERBAL AND NONVERBAL AND THE VAGARIES OF YOUR SOCIAL AND POLITICAL STRUCTURES.  REVELING IN MY ABILITIES TO WORK WITH FACTS AND FIGURES AND TO READ BROUGHT ME THE MENTAL INDEPENDENCE THAT I DESPERATELY NEEDED FROM YOUR WORLD’S CHAOS.  YET, I MOMENTARILY WOULD  ESCAPE MY WORLD AT TIMES HOPING THAT YOU WOULD NOTICE MY INTELLIGENCE AND HELP ME TO REPATRIATE TO YOUR WORLD AFTER MY ABSENCE.  THIS WAS NOT TO BE AND MY MEAGER ATTEMPTS AT PROVING MY MENTAL ABILITIES WOULD NOT BE RECOGNIZED BY ANYONE OTHER THAN MY FAMILY FOR MANY YEARS UNTIL I STARTED TO COMMUNICATE WITH FC.** NOW I CAN COMMUNICATE WITH YOU ON YOUR LEVEL OF EXPERTISE, FOR MANY TOPICS THAT I AM INTERESTED IN TALKING ABOUT ARE ALSO TOPICS THAT INTEREST YOU.

YEARS PASSED WITHOUT MY BEING AWARE OF THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THAT WHICH I CONSIDERED TO BE THE TRUTH AND THAT WHICH WAS YOUR REALITY.  THE FOLLOWING, FROM A PREVIOUS PIECE THAT I WROTE, IS AN EXAMPLE OF WHAT I MEAN: 

_WHEN I WAS HUNGRY AND SCREAMING WHY DIDN’T MOM JUST WARM THE FOOD THAT WAS ALWAYS IN THE REFRIGERATOR– THAT MAGIC BOX THAT WAS MYSTERIOUSLY ALWAYS FULL WITH EVERYTHING THAT I LIKED TO EAT?  BUT EATING A WARMED REFRIGERATOR MEAL WAS A TOTALLY DIFFERENT THING IN MY WAY OF THINKING.  I THOUGHT THAT EACH REFRIGERATOR MEAL THAT WAS WARMED UP WAS GIVEN TO ME BY OUR REFRIGERATOR AS A REWARD FOR OPENING THE REFRIGERATOR’S MOUTH (DOOR) SO THAT IT COULD BREATHE ENOUGH AIR TO STAY ALIVE._ 

_BEFORE I WAS FIVE YEARS OLD*, I KNEW THAT REFRIGERATORS WERE ALIVE AND NEEDED OXYGEN TO BREATHE REGULARLY THROUGH THEIR OPEN MOUTHS BECAUSE OURS WOULD ALWAYS PURR LIKE GRAMP HOWARD’S CATS WHEN THEY WERE RESTING.  AFTER ALL, REGARDLESS OF WHAT IT WAS, OXYGEN WAS NEEDED TO KEEP IT ALIVE IF IT TOO PURRED LIKE GRAMP HOWARD’S CATS. REACHING ERRONEOUS CONCLUSIONS LIKE I DID ABOUT OUR REFRIGERATOR BEING ALIVE AND NEEDING OXYGEN TEASES THE MIND OF A NORMAL PERSON WHO COULD ASK A SIMPLE QUESTION, “WHY DOES THE REFRIGERATOR SOUND LIKE A CAT?” AND TYPIFIES THE NON-COMMUNICATIVE PERSON’S MIND SET ABOUT EXPANDING WHAT FACTS WERE TRUE INTO IDEAS THAT ARE ERRONEOUS BECAUSE OF THE INABILITY TO COMMUNICATE.  AS TIME WENT BY THE TRUE FACTS AND INFORMATION THAT I GATHERED FROM YOUR WORLD WAS INCORPORATED INTO MY IDEAS THAT WERE LIKELY AS NOT TO BE BLENDED IN WITHOUT MY ABILITY TO SEE THE DISCREPANCIES THAT EXISTED BETWEEN THESE INGREDIENTS AND THE TRUTH. _

NOT HAVING A COMMUNICATION SYSTEM TO RELY ON TO REACH YOUR WORLD TO ASK CLARIFYING QUESTIONS I WOULD, MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, ANSWER THE QUESTIONS BY DEDUCING THE ANSWERS FROM THE KNOWLEDGE THAT I DID HAVE.  BECAUSE OF THIS, MY ANSWERS OF THESE QUESTIONS TO MYSELF WERE NOT AS  ACCURATE AS I NOW KNOW THEY MIGHT HAVE BEEN.  ONCE I PLACED THIS INACCURATE INFORMATION IN THE FILING SYSTEM IN MY MIND YOU COULD NOT CONVINCE ME THAT I WAS WRONG.  I BELIEVED THAT I WAS CORRECT IN EVERY INSTANCE WHERE I UNKNOWINGLY DEDUCED MY ANSWERS FROM INACCURATE  OR INCOMPLETE INFORMATION.

I MOMENTARILY, FOR SOME REASON, WOULD ESCAPE MY BLACKNESS AND WOULD LOOK AT YOUR REALITY, YOUR WORLD, WITH A CLARITY OF UNDERSTANDING THAT WOULD NOT LET ME FORGET WHAT I HAD JUST BRIEFLY EXPERIENCED.  THESE BRIEF ENCOUNTERS WITH YOUR WORLD GAVE ME THE HOPE THAT I NEEDED TO KEEP TRYING TO ESCAPE FROM MY WORLD BUT WOULD ALWAYS BE TOO AFRAID TO TRY.  I DID NOT HAVE THE COURAGE TO MAKE THE ESCAPE FROM MY WORLD TO YOURS ON MY OWN.  FC HAS MEANT FOR ME THE WAY I REACH THE WORLD THAT IS OUTSIDE OF MY MIND.

BEGINNING FC AT AGE 25 OPENED DOORS FOR ME THAT WERE CLOSED AS A YOUNGER PERSON.  I BECAME ABLE TO UNDO MOST OF THE MISCONCEPTIONS THAT I HAD FORMULATED IN MY MIND ABOUT YOUR WORLD WHEN I COULD ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT WHAT I DIDN’T UNDERSTAND.  AS MY UNDERSTANDING OF YOUR WORLD INCREASED, SO DID MY TRUST OF OTHER PEOPLE.  THE SHADOWS OF MY FORMER DISTRUST OF OTHERS, UNFORTUNATELY, STILL REMAIN QUIETLY RESIDING IN THE NOOKS AND CRANNIES OF MY CONSCIOUSNESS…

Wally portrait, October 1999.

ONE ATTRIBUTE THAT I HAD THAT HELPED ME MAKE SENSE OF YOUR WORLD WAS THE POWERFUL MIND.  EACH TIME THAT YOUR REALITY ENTERED MY MIND I EXPERIENCED CONSOLATION AND A SENSE OF RELIEF THAT YOUR WORLD WAS LINKED TO MY WORLD DIRECTLY THROUGH FC.  IT WAS THROUGH FC THAT MY UNDERSTANDING OF YOUR WORLD FINALLY TOOK PLACE.  I REASSESSED MY OWN IDEAS, TEACHING MYSELF THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MY WORLD AND YOUR WORLD.  BEFORE I LEARNED FC I WAS MY OWN WORST ENEMY AS I DISCOVERED AFTER I LEARNED TO COMMUNICATE.

AT TIMES, I WOULD NOTICE THAT INSIDE OF ME SOMETHING WOULD GLOW.   THERE WOULD BE, FOR A SPLIT SECOND, THE RECOGNIZABLE GRAVITATIONAL FORCE, THAT PULLING INSIDE OF ME, THAT FEELING OF KINSHIP, THAT MADE ME, OVER TIME, MORE AND MORE WANTING OF YOUR VOICE, YOUR THOUGHTS, YOUR BEING, AND YOUR WORLD’S REALITY.  IN MY WORLD I MADE THE QUESTIONS FIT THE ANSWERS THAT I HAD DEDUCED FROM THE INFORMATION THAT I FOUND IN YOUR THOUGHTS THAT MADE THEIR WAY INTO MY MIND.

THOUGHTS NOT OF MY OWN,  BUT YOUR THOUGHTS, WOULD ECHO IN MY MIND AS I KEPT GOING ON IN MY OWN WORLD DETERMINED THAT I WAS RIGHT AND THAT ALL OF MY CONCLUSIONS WERE CORRECT.  TOO, AS YOUR THOUGHTS MAGNIFIED MY OWN ERRORS I BECAME DETERMINED TO FIND A WAY THAT WOULD ALLOW FOR ME TO STAY IN MY WORLD’S SECURITY AND TO STILL HAVE ACCESS TO YOUR WORLD’S REALITY.  IT WASN’T UNTIL I STARTED TO COMMUNICATE WITH YOU USING FC THAT I FOUND THE LINK THAT WAS MISSING FOR SO MANY YEARS BETWEEN OUR TWO WORLDS.  MANY OF MY MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT YOUR WORLD WERE CORRECTED IN MY MIND AS I BEGAN TO USE YOUR LANGUAGE TO COMMUNICATE WITH NOT ONLY YOU BUT ULTIMATELY WITH MYSELF.

“OUR WORLD” IS A TERM THAT I JUST STARTED TO USE.  I RECOGNIZE NOW THAT I MUST HAVE HELP FROM OTHER PEOPLE IN ORDER TO SURVIVE.  I MUST NOW BE WILLING TO TRUST PEOPLE OTHER THAN MY FAMILY MEMBERS FOR THEIR GOOD JUDGMENT WHEN THEY ARE WORKING WITH ME.  I RECENTLY REALIZED THAT I LIKE TO BE WITH OTHER PEOPLE SOCIALLY, EVEN WHEN I CAN’T ACTIVELY INTERACT WITH THEM.  I’M FINDING THAT I LOOK FORWARD NOW TO MEETING NEW PEOPLE SO THAT I CAN BEFRIEND THEM AND SHARE IN THEIR LIFE EXPERIENCES.  IT PLEASES ME TO KNOW THAT I LIKE PEOPLE TO LIKE ME.  I WANT TO LOOK PEOPLE IN THE EYE TO LET THEM KNOW THAT I LIKE THEM AND WANT TO BE FRIENDS WITH THEM.  OLD MYTHS EVENTUALLY WILL FADE AWAY SO THAT EACH OF MY FRIENDS WILL CONSIDER ME AS NOT BEING AUTISTIC BUT BEING JUST SOMEONE WITH A FEW PROBLEMS, JUST LIKE THEY HAVE.  OTHER’S THOUGHTS ABOUT MY AUTISM WILL QUICKLY DISAPPEAR ONCE THEY GET TO KNOW ME.

THE WORDS THAT I WRITE ARE MY OWN THOUGHTS THAT I HAVE CONTEMPLATED AND ARE BASED ON MY INTERPRETATION OF  ALL OF THE INFORMATION THAT I HAVE GATHERED BY WAY OF ALL OF MY SENSES.  MY MIND IS THE FACTORY FROM WHICH COME MY THOUGHTS THAT ARE MANUFACTURED AND PROCESSED FROM THE SENSORY INPUTS THAT ARE AVAILABLE TO ME AT ANY PARTICULAR TIME.  MY THOUGHT PROCESSES ARE SIMILAR TO YOURS NOW THAT I CAN COMMUNICATE WITH YOU IN YOUR LANGUAGE THAT IS NOT MY NATIVE TONGUE.  PREVIOUSLY, BEFORE I COULD COMMUNICATE, THE INFORMATION THAT I GATHERED FROM YOUR WORLD WAS TRANSLATED INTO MY OWN INTERNAL LANGUAGE THAT I DEVELOPED AT A VERY YOUNG AGE AND USED TO TALK TO MYSELF.  THIS INTERNAL LANGUAGE WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT OF MY MENTAL DEVELOPMENT BECAUSE IT KEPT MY MIND ACTIVE AS I MONITORED THE WORLD THAT WAS OUTSIDE OF MY BODY.

I FOUND, AFTER MANY YEARS OF FEARING YOUR WORLD AND MISTRUSTING EVERYTHING THAT IT REPRESENTED, THAT I WAS MISTAKEN…  THOUGHTS PULLED FROM MY MIND’S CLOSET REFLECTED THIS DICHOTOMY (BETWEEN MY WORLD AND YOUR WORLD) THAT HAS EXISTED EVER SINCE I CAN REMEMBER AND HAS ONLY NOW BEGUN TO FADE SINCE I CAN FC AND ASK QUESTIONS.  UPON MY SAVING THE ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS THAT I CAN NOW ASK, I YEARN TO BRING MY STORED KNOWLEDGE TO YOUR LEVEL OF UNDERSTANDING OF REALITY TO FACILITATE MY IMMERSION INTO YOUR WORLD SO THAT I WILL BE CONSIDERED BY YOU TO BE YOUR EQUAL.  UPON THIS ACCEPTANCE I WILL THANK YOU, AND FURTHERMORE , I WILL FACE YOU TO LET MY EYES PIERCE YOUR THOUGHTS AS YOU WONDER ABOUT MY INTELLECTUAL EQUALITY TO YOU AND MY INSIGHT INTO YOUR WORLD.

THIS DICHOTOMY HAD MANY RAMIFICATIONS THAT WERE TO COLOR MY THINKING ABOUT YOUR WORLD AS I TRIED DESPERATELY TO MAKE SENSE OUT OF THE MANY INCONSISTENCIES THAT YOUR WORLD PRESENTED TO ME.   TEACHING MYSELF TO LOOK AT YOUR WORLD IN THE NEGATIVE,  IN MANY INSTANCES, WAS THE TACK THAT I WOULD USE TO PENETRATE THE MYSTERIES OF YOUR WORLD AND YOUR LANGUAGE WITH ITS MULTIPLE MODES AND MEANINGS.  JUST THINK OF THE WAY AN ENGLISH SPEAKING PERSON CAN CONVEY THE WORD “NO” TO SOMEONE ELSE BY; TURNING THE FACE AWAY; WALKING AWAY; FACIAL EXPRESSIONS; CLOSING THE EYES; PUTTING YOUR HAND UP IN THE “STOP” POSITION WITH EXTENDED ARM AND PALM FACING THE OTHER PERSON.  THIS CONVEYANCE OF THE MEANING OF “NO” BY THESE NONVERBAL MODES IS FURTHER COMPLICATED BY DEGREE, I.E. IS IT A HARD FIRM “NO” OR IS IT A SOFT PENSIVE “NO” GIVING ME TOO PLURALISTIC AN ARRAY OF CHOICES THAT, FOR THE MOST PART, WERE NOT UNDERSTOOD BY ME UNTIL I LEARNED TO COMMUNICATE WITH YOU IN YOUR LANGUAGE OF MULTIPLE MEANINGS AND MULTIPLE MODES.

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OUT SIDE OF THE BOUNDARIES  THAT DELINEATE THESE WORLDS  I HAVE LIVED WITH MOST OF MY LIFE THERE EXISTS A THIRD WORLD THAT I NOW RECOGNIZE, UNDERSTAND AND EMBRACE.  I THINK THAT I AM  NOW ABLE TO TRUST PEOPLE ENOUGH THAT I CAN ENJOY THEIR COMPANIONSHIP AND THEIR MINDS MORE THAN I EVER HAVE IN THE PAST.  REACHING THIS POINT IN MY ABILITY TO WANT TO  KNOW ALL ABOUT A PERSON AND NOT JUST ABOUT SPECIFIC ASPECTS OF A PERSON’S KNOWLEDGE BASE THAT I WAS INTERESTED IN EASILY DEMONSTRATES TO ME HOW MUCH I HAVE MATURED IN RESPECT TO WHERE I KNOW I WAS BEFORE I LEARNED TO COMMUNICATE WITH FC.  EACH PERSON IS NOW RECOGNIZED BY ME FOR WHO THEY ARE AS AN INDIVIDUAL AND NOT BY WHAT THEY KNOW OR BY WHAT THEY CAN DO FOR ME.  I LOOK INTO THEIR FACE  WHEN I SEE THEM AND SMILE ,WHEN I CAN, TO LET THEM KNOW THAT I AM REALLY HAPPY TO BE IN THEIR COMPANY AS A FRIEND AND NOT AS A CHARGE. I LOOK NOW INTO THEIR EYES, AS DEEPLY AS I CAN, TO LET THEM KNOW THAT I AM INTERESTED IN EVERYTHING ABOUT THEM.

I AM AWARE OF YOU AND OF THE WORLD THAT YOU LIVE IN. HOWEVER, I WANT TO MAINTAIN MY OWN IDENTITY AND INDIVIDUALITY.  I THINK THAT MY WANTING TO MAINTAIN MY IDENTITY AS AN AUTISTIC PERSON AND MY INDIVIDUALITY AS AN INDEPENDENT THINKER SHOULD NOT PRECLUDE MY SHARING IN YOUR WORLD IF I CHOOSE.  I AM POINTING THIS OUT TO YOU SO THAT YOU UNDERSTAND THAT WHEN YOU QUESTION WHETHER I AM  WILLING TO BECOME AS NORMAL AS YOU ARE, OR APPEAR TO BE ON MOST OCCASIONS, I WILL SAY NO.  I  WANT TO BE WHO I AM AND NOT SOMEONE’S LIKENESS OR SOMEONE’S MIRROR IMAGE.  I AM FULLY AWARE THAT I AM ME. I AM AWARE THAT I AM A UNIQUE INDIVIDUAL.

THIS THIRD WORLD, “OUR WORLD,” IS ONE PLACE THAT I NOW FEEL AT EASE WITH ,IN MOST RESPECTS, BECAUSE I NOW CAN ENVISION WHAT MY LIFE COULD HAVE BEEN LIKE IF I WEREN’T AT CONSTANT ODDS WITH YOUR WORLD.  TO LIVE IN A CONSTANT CONFLICT, LIKE I HAVE FOR MANY YEARS, HAS MADE ME USED TO DIVERGENT LIFE STYLES THAT HAVE KEPT MY WORLD AND YOUR WORLD ON DIFFERENT PATHS.  THIS IS WHY I NOW SHARE THE ONE WORLD WITH YOU TO PONDER THE FABULOUS WEALTH OF MANKIND THAT INTRIGUED ME IN THE PAST THAT I COULD NOT ACCESS FROM MY WORLD’S VANTAGE POINT.

Wally, August 2006.

OUR WORLD IS IN MY MIND NOW AS I THINK OF WHO I WAS AS A NONVERBAL AUTISTIC PERSON BEFORE I COULD COMMUNICATE . (IT IS) LUCKY FOR ME HOW MY WORLD HAS BECOME OUR WORLD AND HOW MY ACCEPTANCE OF MOST ASPECTS OF MY LIFE NOT ONLY MIRROR YOUR LIFE BUT REFLECT YOUR IMAGINATION INTO THE MIND I NOW FEEL TOO MOVED TO KEEP TO MYSELF.  TELLING YOU THIS IS NOW POSSIBLE BECAUSE I CAN COMMUNICATE MY THOUGHTS TO YOU IN YOUR LANGUAGE AND IN A MODE THAT YOU ARE BOTH FAMILIAR WITH AND COMFORTABLE.  VOICING MY OPINIONS, OBJECTIONS, QUESTIONS, AND THOUGHTS ABOUT MY LIFE IS OPPORTUNITY FOR ME TO ENUNCIATE MY VIEWS AND ALSO TO EXCHANGE IDEAS FREELY WITH ANOTHER PERSON.  I’M TRULY THANKFUL THAT MY DAD DECIDED TO TRY FC WITH ME WHEN HE DID BECAUSE UP TO THIS TIME I HAD NO MEANINGFUL WAY TO COMMUNICATE ANYTHING OTHER THAN MY MOST BASIC NEEDS WITH THE USE OF A FEW WORDS, GRUNTS, AND ACTIONS.

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OLD IDEAS ABOUT THE AUTISTIC PERSON WILL DISAPPEAR BUT  SHADOWS  OF THESE OLD IDEAS WILL REMAIN IN PEOPLE’S MINDS FOR MANY YEARS TO COME. NOW I LOOK TO OTHER PEOPLE BECAUSE I NEED THEIR HELP TO LIVE AND FOR THEIR COMPANIONSHIP. I NOW CAN SEE THE REALITY THAT WE BOTH ARE SHARING.  IN OUR WORLD I AM THE HAPPIEST.  IN MY WORLD I WAS THE LONELIEST.  IN YOUR WORLD I WAS THE MOST FRIGHTENED.

EVEN NOW, I RETREAT TO MY WORLD TO ESCAPE THE VIOLENCE THAT IS SO PREVALENT IN OUR WORLD WHEREAS I THINK THAT OTHER NORMAL PEOPLE ESCAPE TO THEIR WORLDS TO LIVE OUT THEIR FANTASIES IN THE PRIVACY OF THEIR OWN MINDS. WHEN I THINK THAT I FINALLY UNDERSTAND PEOPLE, I FIND THAT I AM MISTAKEN AND MUST REEVALUATE MY SITUATION REGARDING THAT WHICH I HAVE JUST LEARNED.  YET, I AM COMMITTED TO MY ORIGINAL PLAN OF BECOMING A CONTRIBUTING MEMBER OF SOCIETY.  I AM COMMITTED TO MY PLAN OF MAKING A POSITIVE CONTRIBUTION TO OUR WORLD.  PERHAPS, I SHALL MAKE EVEN THOSE WHO THINK ILL  OF FC TAKE ANOTHER LOOK AT IT.  I KEEP HOPING THAT I CAN HELP TO BRING THE PROCESS OF FC OUT OF THE CLOSET WHERE IT HAS BEEN IMPRISONED FOR THE PAST 10 OR 12 YEARS SO THAT MORE NONVERBAL PEOPLE CAN VOICE THEIR OPINIONS.

I LOOK BACK ON MANY OPPORTUNITIES TO ENJOY PEOPLE AS I MIGHT HAVE IF IT WASN’T FOR MY AUTISM AND REALIZE THAT I WASTED MANY OPPORTUNITIES TO BEFRIEND  MANY PEOPLE. I NOW APPRECIATE EACH OF THESE WONDERFUL PEOPLE WHO I CONSIDER MY FRIENDS NOT BECAUSE THEY HELP WITH MY CARE, WHICH I APPRECIATE VERY MUCH, BUT FOR THEIR FRIENDSHIP AND CARING.  THE TRANSITION FROM MY SHUNNING PEOPLE FOR MANY YEARS  TO ENJOYING THEIR COMPANY IS ONLY SURPASSED IN IMPORTANCE TO ME BY MY LEARNING TO COMMUNICATE WITH YOU IN YOUR LANGUAGE.  IT IS ONE OF THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN MY LIFE THAT I AM PROUD TO HAVE DONE BUT THE GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT IS MAKING MYSELF UNDERSTOOD BY MY PARENTS BY USING FC. YESTERDAY TEACHES US ABOUT TODAY, TODAY TEACHES US ABOUT TOMORROW, FOR WE LEARN FROM OUR PAST EXPERIENCES, NOT FROM OUR FUTURE MISTAKES.

THANK YOU.

WALLACE (WALLY) WOJTOWICZ, JR. © 2005

Note by the webmaster: This paper has been presented at the AutCom Conference of September 2005. AutCom stands for Autism National Committee. It is an autism advocacy organization in the USA dedicated to “Social Justice for All Citizens with Autism” through a shared vision and a commitment to positive approaches. The organization was founded in 1990 to protect and advance the human rights and civil rights of all persons with autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, and related differences of communication and behavior. See: AUTCOM – The Autism National Committee .

* Added June 2007

* * Facilitated Communication is an alternative means of expression for people who cannot speak, or whose speech is highly limited. It essentially aids the subject’s motor skills enabling him to point to letters and pictures for communication purposes. In Facilitated Communication an assistant or “facilitator” holds the wrist or hand of the subject, suspending it lightly so the subject is free to easily move his hand and press letters on a keyboard, or point to words and letters on a card in front of him. The degree of facilitation needed varies from person to person, ranging from an encouraging hand on the shoulder to boost confidence, to full support and shaping of a student’s hand to enable pointing. The method has been used as a means to communicate for individuals with mental retardation, autism, Down’s syndrome and other developmental disabilities. It gives previously uncommunicative individuals the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings. It often shows that people with autism have normal or superior intelligence. Source: JewishFuture.com. More information: The Inclusion Institute at Syracuse University