It’s my turn to make a post for the loud hands blog-around. I’ve been really excited and have spent the past few weeks thinking about lots of ideas about things I could say. But in further proof that my life is weird and slightly offensive sit com, I badly injured my left hand slipping on some water and now I can’t type nearly as quickly or easily as usual. But this is important, so me and my one remaining loud hand that isn’t in a splint are going to do what we can here.
What’s This Loud Hands Project Thingie, and Why Do I Care?
Well it all started with somebody else’s blog post, well actually it started with the practices described in it. The post is Quiet Hands; and you should read it because its really good. It made me angry. I didn’t have those posters in my school. I wasn’t ever that well trained. I’m really glad I wasn’t because my parent’s far less disciplined attempts to get me to stop stimming were bad enough. They only yelled at me and shamed me. They made me hesitant and shy and secretive, but they couldn’t make me stop. I can’t imagine ever stopping. Even still, the amount that I used to suppress my own stimming used to hold me back a lot.
I was allowed to “fidget”. As long as I looked ADD it was okay, because that was a less scary diagnosis. But in practice that meant I could do nervous stims and thinking stims but not happy stims. There’s a terrible grayness to my memories of my early teens. And it is wan’t enough to process the input I was getting at school. I had frequent meltdowns which I had to pretend were migraines in order to get the quiet I needed. Because my parents would accept any explanation but the truth.
I think the difference is they weren’t trying to “cure” my autism, but were desperately in denial that I had it. I didn’t know what it was, but I think they knew what they feared. I was allowed to be weird any way but the ways that came natural to me. My body was very confused and so my thoughts were confused and I knew something was very wrong and couldn’t tell what. It wasn’t until I met my first other Autistic friend in late high school that I was reminded how to move like me again.
I Have Data!
*I have measurably vastly better short term memory if I’m allowed to flap during the test than if I’m not. Grabbing my hands can reset my memory. I’m storing data in muscle positions.
*When doing a hand task instead of a verbal task, I usually stim verbally by babbling nonsense syllables. I can reliably beat the game “Perfection” with babbling, but have never won without babbling.
*My typing word count nearly triples with scheduled stim breaks.
*At the end of high school I broke a rib and every sudden move hurt for months. (It healed slowly because I couldn’t stop reinjuring it by moving.) This was one of the major factors in the downward spiral into depression that happened that year. I couldn’t stim so I couldn’t feel emotions. (They say us Auties don’t have emotions. That’s because they teach us not to stim, before they ask how we feel.) This is how I got the affectionate nickname, broken boy. It was actually a weirdly sweet reclamation of broken. Not being able to stim for a practical reason may have been worth it, because it was then very easy to see what I had lost and how important it was. So I prioritized always keeping it after that, no matter what anybody thought.
Scientific Conclusion: This is totally not a pointless repetitive behavior!
I’ve waited my whole like for a place to belong, a place to be allowed to exist. In high school I found another example of somebody like me; now I’m finding a community, a community that is just now being built. There are people now to tell me I’m okay and that I’m wanted and affirm that I really need what I need. In the few months since I’ve found this I’ve not only gotten happier, I’ve gotten more functional and productive in almost every area. Feeling allowed to exist really really makes it easier to live.
The Loud Hands Project is an attempt to help make this community, and make it more visible. I shouldn’t have had to wait so long to find this. Nobody should, but plenty of people out there must still think they’re alone. And my parents and Julia’s teacher’s should have known better. The world needs to hear about us, because the world needs to know.
My Hand Hurts: I’m Going To Copy/Paste Now
The Loud Hands Project is a transmedia publishing and creative effort by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, spearheaded by Julia Bascom. Currently, we are raising money towards the creation of our first and foundational anthology (Loud Hands: Autistic People, Speaking) and accompanying website.
Loud Hands: Autistic People, Speaking features submissions by Autistic authors speaking about neurodiversity, Autistic pride and culture, disability rights and resistance, and resilience (known collectively by the community as having loud hands). Submissions guidelines can be found here. The anthology is the first of a projected series featuring contributions from Autistic writers stressing the preservation and celebration of Autistic culture and resilience. The website will host shorter and multi-media submissions along the same lines, along with additional materials and videos, and serve as a focal point for the project and community. Future anticipated facets of The Loud Hands Project include
*community- and youth-organizing components
*an archive of our community’s foundational documents
*the development of materials for newly-diagnosed people of all ages and abilities explaining their diagnosis and welcoming them into the community
*specific responses campaigns to instances of bullying and abuse
*additional and longer videos
*a means for members of the Autistic community to provide feedback and guidance and share their vision for what they would like to see next from the project
*community-generated texts in answer to questions such as what does autism mean to you;why does Autistic culture matter; what do you wish you had known growing up Autistic; and how can the Autistic community cultivate resilience?
With an overarching commitment to undoing the cultural processes and ghettoization that make autistic people strangers to ourselves and spectators in our own stories. Put another way, The Loud Hands Project consists of multiple prongs organized around the theme of what the Autistic community refers to as “having loud hands”–autism acceptance, neurodiversity, Autistic pride, community, and culture, disability rights and resistance, and resilience. We focus on cultivating resilience among autistic young people and empowering the Autistic community writ large in building communities and cultures of ability, resistance, and worth. To quote Laura Hershey: “you weren’t the one who made you ashamed, but you are the one who can make you proud.”