The new Uni semester has started. As an autie, with difficulty in engaging in new situations and meeting new people, it is good to get Week 1 over and done with. My greatest fear, that I would become so overloaded as to be unable to function, has been put to rest. The lecturers in my two subjects, who are also my tutors, are wonderfully understanding and inclusive, making every allowance for my peculiarities, including lying on the floor and humming. It’s also a relief that there will be no exams for these units, as my ever present anxiety would skyrocket into the stratosphere on such occasions.
My friend, Cameron, who also communicates with a speech generating device with the support of a facilitator, is not so lucky though. Cameron has done two years of a journalism degree and obtained outstanding results. However, his main support worker and communication partner had an accident towards the end of last year and was unable to continue. Although recently, two new support workers have come on board, they are still under the necessary training in order to be able to facilitate his typing. Being left without a ready means of communication, Cameron has been forced to defer his course for the next trimester.
People may think that this is a golden opportunity to sit around and chill out, but for us auties, it can be terrifying. With no routine or familiar activities to provide some sort of predictability, it is impossible to feel safe or comfortable. What’s more, trying out new things can be fraught with no one who can facilitate your typing so you can talk to people. All in all, losing a familiar support person or a facilitator can be disastrous as your ability to communicate and make connection with people is curtailed. Our sense of acceptance, belonging and self hood depend very much in our active involvement with the world, and when our means to do so via communication is diminished, we are relegated to the fringe and once again, forced to make the best of our lot in which it is commonplace for people to ignore us or treat us as if we were children of a lesser god.
I have experienced such disasters in the past, but have come through with increased resilience to keep going to achieve my dreams. I am sure Cameron would be able to summon up the courage and determination to bounce back from such setbacks and succeed in what he has set out to do.