Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Silence and Solitude

Alianne Sonderling has posted "Autistics Speaking Day: Silence and Solitude" on Authenticity in Communication

The concept of autistic people having "voices" and 'speaking out" in the world, literally and metaphorically, is discussed at length in the blogosphere today.** 

But what of our equally important rights to silence and solitude?

To communicate through pictures, writing, or sign language, if it works better or is more comfortable than speech?

To be allowed to modify our environment, or use adaptations, to defend against sensory noxiousness?

To not be constantly forced to socialize at times when we can't handle it?

To choose to spend time alone, without being insulted, othered, or pitied for it?

To stare into flowers, or fires, or shiny spinny things, or watch raindrops chase each other across windows, or engage with whatever stimuli hold us in silent rapture, and not be made to stop because it "looks weird"?

To, when other responsibilities allow it, spend hours engaged in solitary special interests and projects, without being demeaned for it?

To choose jobs that are quiet, calm, and/or solitary if we wish, and not be underpaid or nagged that we're "not living up to our potential"?

To opt not participate in noisy, overwhelming allistic social situations like parties and clubs - even if "everybody else does it"?

To choose friends and lovers based on actual personal compatibility, on our own timetable, rather than being rushed into socializing with anyone available because others think we need practice?

To not have friends and/or lovers at all, if we prefer that?

To not have allistic modes of social behavior pushed on us every moment of our lives?

In U.S. law, the right to remain silent is there to protect people against self-incrimination, and the right to freedom of association protects your right to spend time with who you want to (including yourself).   For autistic people - especially for autistic people - freely chosen silence and solitude are an essential part of self-determination in a world dominated by allistic thought and social culture.

Participate in allistic culture all you want and are capable of doing, of course.  It's just different, not bad.

But as we continue fighting for our "voices" and right to "speak out", let us not forget how important it is for us to also be able to say no, to be quiet, to be ourselves by ourselves.

**And, happily, most other days now too.

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