There is a woman named Laura Nagle, whom I have come to know both through her blog and through our sometimes witty – sometimes profound – Twitter interaction about ideas and experiences. She is autistic, is brilliant in the areas of mathematical knowledge and engineering, and in many ways reminds me of an adult version of my son H.
For my son, autism means he has a different way of thinking, processing and responding to the world. Like Laura Nagle, he will always have autism. He will be autistic next week when he turns 13, and when he is 25, and even when he is 57 – like Laura. Autism is a part of him, as it is a part of many, many people.
If you want to know more about Laura and her advocacy work – I highly recommend checking out her site: Laura Nagle ̴Professionally Autistic. Her messages of acceptance and the value of diversity are ones that many of us support:
“I believe that persons of different abilities are an integral part of the human experience. I believe that all people are enriched by the presence of a wide variety of different people. It is good that we have not only differing abilities, but also varied dreams. Autistic people are here for a reason. I want us to be here a long time and to thrive; to assist all to thrive.” (Laura Nagle)
Our world has become better, though not perfect, at embracing/tolerating diversity in gender, race, cultural and ethnic background, sexuality, politics, and religion. It is time to expand this to include acceptance of different ways of processing, understanding, and interacting with the world. We have an opportunity to accept and celebrate neurological diversity, and we have so much we can learn about ourselves and our children through our interactions with people like Laura.
When I read about the struggles that Laura faces, I understand that there are many others who are similarly struggling. Change is needed so that those who face social cognitive challenges are not marginalized, socially and/or economically, and relegated to the edges of our social interactions. A little less judgment and a little more understanding and support would go an awfully long way.
The remarkable thing however is that Laura is involved in a documentary project that is almost at its completion. The result will be a 50 minute documentary that will teach others about her experience and her way of being in the world. Vectors of Autism: a film about Laura Nagle “explores Laura’s experiences and her ideas about autism, while also depicting her unique artistic drawings. Laura’s story is captivating because it gives us a window into a life lived on the autism spectrum. It’s also captivating because of Laura’s ability to provide expression to this perspective in entertaining and insightful ways.”
I write Thirty Days of Autism with the intent of increasing awareness, acceptance, and understanding for those who think differently. There is more work that needs to be done so that H, and others like him, find a world that will accept and support their differences as they become adults. I believe we begin this work by supporting change and by educating others about neurological diversity this very day.
We will build a better future for children like mine if we work not only to advocate for our children – but also advocate for and support those who have a story to share as adults. People like Laura have so much they can teach us about their experience, their perspective, and how to effectively promote social understanding.
If you would like to be a part of supporting the documentary Vectors of Autism: The project is hoping to raise at least $5000 to complete the post-production work (special effects, sound engineering, and final editing) and to pay for the animation of Laura’s artwork. They would, of course, be ecstatic to exceed this funding goal and to thus be able to enter the film into festivals.
I plan to do what I can to assist with this project for a number of reasons: I believe in the project, I like Laura’s message, I think listening to the voices of autistic adults is of critical importance, I think doing so will help to shape the world a bit closer to the approximation that I would like to see for my son’s future, and frankly, helping others, by making a contribution, or even by writing this post, makes me feel like I am making a difference.
(Text and images from http://www.lauranagle.net used with permission)
So whether or not you are able to contribute to the Vectors of Autism project – the fact that you are reading this post is making a difference as well. Thank you in advance for the work you are doing to support people like H and Laura. Sharing this information with others, or contemplating new perspectives… one small step at a time can take us all a very long way…
Postscript: December 11, 2011 The Vectors of Autism Documentary fundraising effort has thus far raised $ 3, 852 toward finishing the movie, which is almost 77% of what is needed. The level of support has been tremendous – but this project still needs the assistance of the autism community, and the many others who support those in this community, to reach that final goal.
Laura has recently written a series of 4 posts that describe her life and the amazingly impact that making the documentary has had upon it. There are only five days left to make that final 23 %… and to make a positive difference in Laura’s life and the lives of others!
30 Days of Autism is a project designed to promote social understanding and offer a glimpse into the perspectives of those whose lives are touched by ASD.
©Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism (2011)