THE AUTISTIC COMMUNITY IS LIKE ANY OTHER.

One of the difficulties I had, growing up, was finding where I belonged, and one of the things I remembered is that one of my special interests was, and still is, Japan, and whenever there was a negative news story on about Japan, my brother would push me to watch it. One such example was of Allied POWs being placed in cages and thrown to the sharks. One thing that I had some difficulty reconciling was that people in the West would condemn this, yet when a man was convicted of murder in the USA, people yelled, “Throw him to the sharks!” One may have been an example of calculated cruelty, the other may have been a human response to a shocking crime and they may not have actually done it.

What I couldn’t find the words to articulate was that you could condemn such an atrocity, yet it didn’t mean you had to change your opinion of the current society.

Similarly, you could oppose commercial whaling under the guise of collecting tissue samples, and not be anti-Japanese.

My grandfather worked with a man who was a POW in Changi and he wasn’t anti-Japanese. My grandfather was in Darwin for 27 of the 62 Japanese bombing raids on the city and when he was asked if he was anti-Japanese, replied, “One dropped a bomb that exploded 50 feet from where I was standing, but other than that, no.” One of the things that I was unprepared for was, yes, you can have a special interest in Japan, love the language and love the people, but you’re not going to like every single Japanese person you meet. That’s just life.

A friend of mine posted that not all autistic people are nice, and I say, “Well, that’s true, just like any other people.” Not all Japanese are nasty; not all Japanese are nice. Not all Americans are nasty; not all Americans are nice. Not everyone who drives a Holden car is nasty; not everyone who drives a Ford is nice, or vice versa.

Extremists will always cherry-pick extreme examples. An idiotic Australian politician came out with the nonsense that multiculturalism hasn’t worked anywhere and chose Bosnia as an example. Bosnia is an extreme example and is far more complicated than people may think. But let’s not forget that Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia have been at war, but some individual Croatians have married Serbians or Bosnians, and indeed, some Catholics have married Muslims and some Serbian Orthodox. I personally know people who had one Serbian parent and one Croatian parent, and in one case, the man I knew came over here as a baby with his mother, but his father located his mother and shot her, but another woman I know had a Serbian parent and a Croatian parent and she had a happy home life that ended when her father died.

Some will highlight Jayson Todd, who raped and murdered Eurydice Dixon, but he did not do that because he is autistic, he did it because he has sexual sadism disorder. Some will highlight others, but they are extreme examples.

The vast majority of autistic people are decent people, just like the vast majority of Japanese people are law abiding citizens, and just like the vast majority of Muslim-Australians are decent, law-abiding citizens. The vast majority of autistic people are law-abiding citizens (some may cross that line, and unless they have criminal intents, in most cases, it’s because what’s legal isn’t always just).

People shouldn’t, however, use a bad experience with an autistic person as an excuse for neurophobia. In the case of that idiotic Australian politician, when she uttered that offensive rant in the senate, she may have had some respect from the community if she’d said, “I know the vast majority of autistic students are well-behaved, and thrive in a classroom where accommodations are made, but for the troublesome students, be they autistic or neurotypical, maybe extra needs to be done. Segregation is not the answer.” And let’s not forget that sometimes students can have a logical reason that’s overlooked as to why they misbehave (such as hearing loss or vision problems) and when it’s corrected (by surgery, in the case of glue-ear, or hearing aids, or glasses) the troublesome behaviour subsides.

So, we shouldn’t judge the actions of a few as being typical of an entire community.

Diagnosed with autism at 35. Explained a lifetime of difference.