A Spoken Word Poem by The Autistinquisitor/Rishav Banerjee
From when I was very young, I knew I was different. I didn’t pay much heed though. I was satisfied with who I was, carefree, happy. From time to time I did things that were foolish, but it shouldn’t be a big deal; everyone makes mistakes, at least that’s how I feel. I was adventurous, explorative, excited, wanted to see the world. But sometimes I was also in my own world. In synchronization with myself, my mind; who knew what wonders I could find? But little did I know, I would be left behind. My peers? They weren’t very kind.
Preschool, I didn’t talk to people much, just stare out the window. The world seemed to move real slow. Come moving to Canada; there still wasn’t much for me to wish. In kindergarten, I’d rather have conversations with fish. I was small, and parts of the world didn’t make much sense; a lot of things, the sounds, the lights, were very intense. I was sometimes too mellow, sometimes too hyper; I would start to notice something the teachers would try to decipher.
In those days, that age, the kids and I were mostly on the same page. Young, overwhelmed, innocent, they were mostly nice, as I could tell, and I fit in rather well… yet some still saw beyond my veil, and then begun the start of a darker tale. At four or five years old; I can’t remember very clear. A fellow classmate and kindergartener cut my left arm with a pair of scissors. I didn’t so much as shed a tear. The bleeding didn’t go too far… but to this day, I’m left with a scar.
Going up the scale, through elementary; my social skills were barely rudimentary. I was ostracized, disliked; virtually friendless. To this day, I hardly process the true meaning of friendship as I do not feel I have truly experienced it. The sixth grade, I asked myself; why am I so different? What do other have that I don’t? What makes social interaction among other things so easy for them? The sixth grade was when I felt my difference first; among the middle school pre-teen years, this would have qualified for worst. Seventh grade, I started to feel more worth, but it was hardly a rebirth. Grade 8, a twist of fate; I go to a high school for the arts. My talents shone through, and won some hearts.
Ninth grade, starts off great. Ninth grade, I get more hate. People think I’m weird. Suddenly I become feared. My grades start to slip, my happiness starts to flip. I start to see my differences put me apart, and that’s when I decide it’s time for a new start: time to retell my story, with the truth.
I was determined to be on the autism spectrum at around age 7. Back then it was known as Asperger’s Syndrome, though the biggest difference is really just the spelling. People say, “you don’t look autistic! You must be high functioning!”. Well, some days I may be. Some days I’m not. My ability to do things is hardly in stasis. Believe it or not, I’m a living being that grows, develops, and changes on a daily basis like any other individual.
When I come forward with the truth, respect is born out of shade; yet eventually after the initial surprise, things start to fade. Yet now I feel more secure not hiding myself; there is a word for what I feel now: free. No longer trapped. Once again, I try to enjoy being me.
Tenth grade, starts off rough; by the middle, I feel more tough. Self-doubt removed; good things seem to stay; at this point I was really in my heyday. Little do I know, this would come crashing down, my smile would quickly fade to beyond a frown. Ecstatic laughter suddenly becomes the painful sensation of an incoming meltdown. Despite my attempts to be myself, yet also blend; in the end I lose a friend. Push has always come to shove; I feel I lost my capacity to love. Despite moments of weakness, it took this long; now I feel I’m no longer strong. I’m losing the fight; I feel I’m in twilight. In it, are two emotions: vindictive anger, and self-hatred. Why was I born this way? Is this how I will always stay? Why me? Why am I broken? What the hell is wrong with me?
The rage on the other hand, went towards others; society itself, fellow sisters and brothers. I saw the way people like me were treated. Seeing it made my blood boil, my mind get heated. Yet I had no choice but to stay seated. We deserved better.
I would spend a while looking for ways I could possibly fix myself. It was futile, for I was never broken.
Twelfth grade; a shift was made. I discovered a word that changed my life: Neurodiversity.
Neurodiversity; the diversity of brains and minds. Human thought comes in shapes of all kinds. Neurodiversity is a verifiable fact. Everyone’s brains slightly differ; some more than others, but nobody’s base brain is truly wrong; they are intact. People act like being Autistic and being healthy are mutually exclusive. They are not. But if we were treated better, we may have a better shot.
Looking at life through the lens of neurodiversity, we see a new paradigm. The old way is outdated, harmful, and gone way past its’ time. Looking at diverse brains through pathology does no good; it just made me feel bad about myself; where I stood. When you look all around, you see people trying to drive Autistics to the ground. People will risk their kids dying out of fear they turn out like me. Is that really what so many people see? I look at how society views autism and I’m torn, as people funnel six-figure money to prevent those like me from being born.
Neurodiversity is the same as cultural, ethnic diversity and all other kinds. Neurological minorities are subject to the same dynamics of power and oppression that affect other demographics. It is intersectional. Yet what is done to Autistic people would be inhumane or criminal done to anyone else. This needs to change.
My being Autistic is as much a part of my humanity as my being a person of color, as being an Indian. Autism is not a way of being broken. Being Autistic is not easy, but it is still worth it in its’ own way. I don’t need to live a normal life to live a worthwhile one. For all the things, I struggle with, there are things I can excel in. I am different, but not less. There is no default or right human mind, brain, or body. Through embracing the neurodiversity paradigm, we can create an inclusive, accessible world that embraces the entire spectrum of humanity.