A Culture of Gold - Building Diplomacy with the Autistic and Neurodiverse Communities

This week on Community Corner I am incredibly pleased to share with you Tacy Traverso’s blog on building diplomacy with autistic and neurodiverse communities.

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I’m at work and was outside having a smoke (nasty habit, I know). A co-worker and former team member came up to me and said the article about Golden Moments struck her, deeply. We talked for a bit. I told her the work that’s happening right now: The neurodiverse world and the neurotypical world is in a state of conflict and only by dialog and diplomacy can we end that conflict. We must do this work.

That was another golden moment.

She wanted to share the article to her own network but didn’t know what to say about it. She wants to help forward this diplomacy but doesn’t know how. Here is how: spread the message, create golden moments of your own.

What does that mean?

Think of autism and neurodiversity as its own nation state; but one without borders and without a single, cohesive voice and identity (yet). We have our own culture and our own needs. We have been paying into the neurotypical world with our ideas and different ways of thinking, but the neurotypical world needs to make more space for us to be comfortable contributing. We need to feel safer.

We need to talk more -- neurotypicals have been telling us how their culture works, but need to listen to how ours does. Imagine you are doing business with someone in Japan. You must learn part of their language; how do they greet each other? Do you shake hands or not? What is considered offensive? What they may not know about you and how other cultures do these things differently? You would not expect to have successful business dealings without taking such things into account.

This is the same gap that must be bridged between neurodiverse people and neurotypical. Don’t be afraid to ask; don’t be afraid to talk about this; don’t say sorry; when there is a hiccup between the two cultures, say “thank you for understanding (or listening, or accommodating) me”. Both cultures need to do this. But right now, much of this has to come from the neurotypical world. We need to ask for what we need, but we need you to hear us, and create a safe space for the diplomacy. 

When I’m in a meeting in our conference rooms, there are so many windows that the light is deafeningly bright. It physically hurts my eyes and I can’t focus. So, I have educated my team that I may wear sunglasses in a meeting. I may wear sunglasses at my desk. I shouldn’t expect them to close the blinds every time, but they shouldn’t expect me to not help myself with my sunglasses.

In those meetings, my body is restless. I can’t listen when I have to focus so hard on being still. So, I bring a pad of paper and a pen and I colour in the lines on the paper. It’s purposeless colouring beyond the fact that it occupies just enough of my brain to let my ears work. It lets me have movement and visual focus, which frees my ears to focus auditory.

If my feelings get big when I’m at work, I need a minute. My boss knows this and sometimes, he’ll just sit still with me in a small room - we call them fish bowls - to create a safe place for me to gather myself. 

What do we do now?

The above are all golden moments of accommodation between our two cultures. If you are neurotypical, make space for this type of dialog with your team, coworkers, friends, family. Spread this message. 

If you are neurodiverse, do your best to talk about what you need and explain if you can. If you don’t feel safe talking about this, be patient. The work is being done to make this planet safer for us. These cultures will coexist harmoniously. More golden moments will happen. 

Respectfully,

The Autistic Wolf

To read more from Tacy in her Facebook group ‘The Autistic Wolf’ please go to:

Jessica Dark