30th November, 1990. A day I remember well. It was my last day of Year Eleven, and we were doing our training for the Queensland Inter-year Project. An initiative at my school for Year Twelves to work with Year Eights. In my group, was a guy who was confined to a wheelchair and we ended up talking about the School Guidance Officer, and the teacher leading our group was amazed at how unhappy we all were with this man.
The year before, I had an interview with the Guidance Officer, and my mother was present, and this man could not have been more discouraging. "You want to do English? Okay." "Maths In Society? Okay." "Modern History?" "Are you passing history?" "Yes." "Okay, anything lower, I'd say forget it." "You want to do Japanese? Okay." "Hey, you're lining up for six board subjects. There's Practical Computer Methods on Line Six." This was NOT, despite what my mother later said (my mother is notorious for twisting things) well-meaning advice from somebody, but somebody supposedly feeling so inadequate that he had to put others down. I proved him wrong by finishing Modern History with an A, Japanese with a B plus, Maths in Society with a B, English with a B, Science with an A and Economics, which he laughed at, with a B plus.
Anyway, this guy in the wheelchair, had to have three operations at the end of Year Ten, and he hadn't selected his subjects, so the Guidance Officer, wait for it, rang his parents, and said, "Your son won't amount to much, so get him to five easy subjects." Needless to say, the guy was upset and said he didn't want to spend his life stuck in front of a computer.
I could not have foreshadowed at that point, that I would have numerous physical ailments to deal with, but I remember seeing a line in a book, "Never equate a frail body with a frail mind."
I remembered also, seeing an interview with a woman I admire where she was asked if she was street smart or book smart. There are book smart and street smart people, and a lower level of education is not necessarily indicative of a low level of intelligence. I can remember Paul Keating, Australia's Prime Minister from December 17, 1991 to March 2, 1996, performing a brilliant character assessment of the destructive fool who held the office from September 7, 2013 to September 14, 2015, who said, "He came along to groups, in the last few years I was Prime Minister, where he was the resident nut." I don't particularly like that term, but Paul Keating went to school up until Year Ten and did his Leaving Certificate externally, whereas the destructive fool he mentioned was a Rhodes Scholar and a fool. (He didn't believe in climate change, he didn't believe in anything outside the fifteenth century, either). Thus he proved that an education cannot necessarily be equated with intelligence.
Limitations should not be equated with being undervalued, either.
This brings me to talk about autism. Last week, I had to collect my father from a place where he had hired a wheelchair van for my mother. This was the same mother who, when I was two, could operate a record player, and her friend said, "As long as he knows how to operate it properly." who then, one day, when I had to shift my father's 4WD, asked if I'd left it in Park. Heck, I'd only been driving for 26 years and if I didn't know that you always leave an automatic in park (I've never driven a manual, as it is too complicated to have to co-ordinate a clutch foot, a hand and a steering wheel in one go, for me, anyway) I shouldn't be driving! I remembered how to get there, by myself, by following landmarks, and remembering, despite some of the area being rural residential, "Turn left at this corner, can you see this?" "Yes, you can." I tend to be able to find places by following a map having seen it on Google Maps. One day, last year, I had to collect my father from a Beaurepaires where he had some tyres replaced, and I knew it was on the opposite side of the road, and followed directions I'd memorised. I prefer to do things by myself than with others, even if I could use their assistance.
I have seen places labelled "Female Friendly" and I also say that just because someone is female, doesn't mean to say they don't know much about cars, and just because someone is male doesn't mean they don't know cosmetics.
Don't assume that because somebody has a disability that they can't know anything or do anything. I mean, the most positive thing to come into my life, bar Shigemi, is Nutsy and he needs some caring for. He needs food, he needs water, and he needs other things, too, including love. Just like people say it takes a special person to love someone who is autistic, it takes a special type of person to love a cat or a dog and it takes a special type of person, an educated (not necessarily formally) person to truly appreciate how wonderful disabled people can be.