|Did you know there
are over half a million people with autism in the UK?
In fact before my son was born my only exposure to autism was the Dustin Hoffman / Tom Cruise film Rainman. I know what I thought autism was. Disabled. Non Vocal. No life. Shut inside. Weird. Untouchable.
Then I learned that actually my baby son was likely to end up being sent away to school, would never be able to love me, would never show affection, would never understand the world. In fact, I should consider that effectively my daughter was an only child. I had no idea what dealing with a disabled child meant and I didn't question anything the Health Visitor told me. You wouldn't question at first because you didn't have all the facts except those with *experience* gave you.
Bollocks to that.
Then you learn. Matt was talking at five and was out of nappies at five. He had tantrums like you would not believe but he also cuddled us. He didn't appear to understand no, which led to a few trips to casualty (ER), but he was bright and at the age of one copied his dad by taking a screwdriver and trying to unscrew a plug in the wall.
Which brings me to danger. He doesn't really have a full awareness of danger, or consequence of action. Which is kind of scary at times. But, he's a boy of 14 with the careless abandon of a six year old. He climbs and slides and jumps and shouts and he has a life and a world in his head which never fails to amaze me.
He is creative, funny, writes episodes for a TV show he has in his head called The Amazing Furze Down Adventures. He counts ceiling fans and can tell you what type of fan is in what shop and whether it was clean/dirty or on/off. He hoards facts about fans like a neurotypical kid would about pokemon, or football, or baseball.
Where does this link to prejudice?
It's the same as what I said last year, and what I say every day. Education is key, about autism, cancer, MS, politics, people, gender, sexuality. If you know more about the people behind the labels *disabled*, *gay*, *liberal*, *female*, *religious* and so many others, then you start to learn that these term are simply a convenient way for society to group like with like.
And does this mean I am unprejudiced because I am an intelligent modern woman who knows all this?
I wish I could type here that I have no prejudice in me but I would be lying. I doubt any one of us doesn't have prejudice somewhere inside us. We all judge other people and groups of people.
I don't suffer fools gladly – it takes an awful lot to wind me up but for the first time I know I have felt real hate this year for someone. I have also had my tentative trust in some people destroyed and now sit firmly back in my prejudiced view of them. I can't help it. I am human.
I wish the UK wasn't sinking under immigration issues and that I could see through the prejudice I have when my taxes go up to deal with the problems. I wish chavs like Katie Price didn't act like idiots (and I judge them for it). I wish I could see past Jimmy Saville and not judge every male celebrity from his era the same way as I do him.
So I have prejudice.
So how can I expect others not to be prejudiced against me? For what I write, or believe, or for my son, or for homeschooling my daughter for two years, for what I earn, for what I don't earn, for being overweight, for driving a Ford, for… the list goes on…
Tolerance and education is the key. I'll do it if you will…
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