I actually wrote the above paragraph on the 31st of October. I was trying to write the post that day since I knew today was going to be busy for me. However, I was not able to focus my thoughts and get this entry written. Perhaps this has ended up being positive since I had an experience at university today that I think is worthy of a post on its own.
To acknowledge ASDay I cosplayed as the character Yugi from the manga and television series Yu-Gi-Oh! to my university class today. The reason I did this was because I have been a participant at the Yu-Gi-Oh! The Trading Card Game Australian Nationals, so I thought cosplaying as the main character from Yu-Gi-Oh! was fitting. I also happen to know that many Autistic people like Yu-Gi-Oh! I have found many of my Autistic friends through participating at Yu-Gi-Oh! Tournaments.
As I had hoped, the Yugi costume and my reasons for wearing it came up in conversation during class, allowing me to explain ASDay to my lecturer and other students (the course I am undertaking is in disability studies so it is useful for my classmates to know). Another Autistic individual in the class mentioned that her Autistic son also likes Yu-Gi-Oh! so she should introduce us to each other at some stage. I told this person and the rest of class that I found a significant number of my Autistic friends through playing Yu-Gi-Oh! even though most of us did not have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder at the time, we got a diagnosis later.
I did not anticipate someone in the room questioning why I felt the need to mention that a significant number of friends I made playing Yu-Gi-Oh! were Autistic. To me it seemed obvious, I mentioned it because it was fact and because a lot of Autistic individuals do seem to like Yu-Gi-Oh!. His argument was that it did not matter whether those friends were Autistic, Neurotypical (a person whose brain is wired the usual way) or a different form of Neurodiverse person (a person with dyslexia, ADHD etc.).
To me this does matter. While I appreciate my Neurotypical and other Neurodiverse friends, I have found a true sense of belonging in the Autistic community. Just over the weekend, I was struggling with a certain issue that lots of Autistic people struggle with. I was able to vent about the issue to a Facebook group of all Autistic individuals, some of whom I have met in real life and are my friends. They understood my issue, gave examples of facing similar issues and made me feel like I was not alone.
That said I get where this person in my class is coming from. In the past, people with disabilities were often segregated from other people and from what I understand, did not have much opportunity to make friends with people without disabilities. Even now, exclusion of individuals with disabilities from the mainstream is an issue (and one that gets frequently talked about in our disability studies classes). I certainly think Autistic individuals should have the opportunity to find Neurotypical and other Neurodiverse friends ….. I just also think that being able to make friends with other Autistic individuals and feeling that sense of belonging to a group is important as well.
This is not the ASDay post I intended to write but I think it is a valuable post all the same. Perhaps next year I should also make an effort to cosplay as a character for ASDay and see what happens.