Thursday, 23 January 2020

1 in 30 Professionals is Autistic?

Today, you're likely to have woken up in a home powered by electricity systems co-designed and run by autistic specialists.

You'll reach for your phone, probably co-designed and run by autistic specialists, and listen to music composed by and played by autistic musicians.

Getting into your car or the bus or train for your daily commute, you're sitting in something co-tested, co-designed and co-engineered by autistic people, with brakes that work because autistic people tested and tested those brakes as a design.  Seatbelts that work. Airbags that work.  You'll maybe cross some bridges that were designed and tested by autistic people, and casually glance at planes overhead, designed by autistic people, in flight paths which are overseen by autistic people, and whose pilots and air crews may well be autistic.

Making an appointment to see your GP, Opticians or Dentist, you'll be glad of the ~ 1 in 30 who are specialists, and autistic, bringing absolute excellence to their field.  

Taking some time out for lunch to visit a gallery, you'll pass by artworks by some of the leading autistic artists, sculptors and designers.  Passing by a school, autistic teachers who are bringing a depth of integrity and honesty to their work with the young people.

Thinking of putting your house or business premises on the market?  You might need the services of an autistic Accountant or Financial Adviser to work out the money side of things.  An autistic Surveyor to check diligently that the property you're buying is fit for purpose and worth the money.  An autistic  Lawyer to check the documentation does what it's meant to do, without error.  If anything goes wrong in your life, you might be relying on the amazing legal minds of autistic Police, Magistrates and Judges, with clarity, fairness and deep knowledge.

We've had decade after decade of pretence that autism always means young boys with low IQs and 'bad behaviour'.  Not only has research shown that to be untrue, it's also led to a devastating reality for autistic professionals.

We are expected to hide.

Want to know how many autistic professionals I know?  I couldn't begin to list them, the list is so long.  Each approaching me to say, (paraphrased) "Yes, I'm autistic, but we can't say, can we.  I'd get fired. No-one would take my 30 yrs of work seriously any more, even though I've been autistic all my life and it's that autistic integrity, honesty and focus that has driven the success."

We even get a few naughty people wandering about in meetings and social media, spreading misinformation about us as a way to get more business for their own firms.  That's just rude, isn't it.

I'm very glad to be 'out' as an autistic professional.  After too many years of having to hide, I value being treated with courtesy, and won't work for people who cannot manage that.

But mine is a situation of Privilege, where I'm old enough and tough enough, and our clients already know and love us for what we bring to them (20+ years of error-free excellence and caring about the outcomes for them).  Too many still have to hide.

It's not OK.
This isn't 1940 any more.
We can stop pretending that all autistic people are like that 1940s myth-set.

We can of course put good and proper support around the minority who need specialised help and support, and around their families.  That's fair and right.  Their lives are every bit as important as everyone else's lives,and they are worth every bit a much.

The reality is that your lives are already heavily reliant on the autistic professionals around you.  It's 2020.  Let's let people be real about who they are.

Thank you so much.

PS - Research to back this up?  Here you go... huge study in Northern Ireland.  1 in 30 is autistic.  In fact, 1 in 20 boys...