Why don't you do something then?
After a busy and rainy day and lots of organising and sorting for my research project, I was browsing Facebook (as per usual) and I came across many speaking about the most recent Methodist conference. I think conferences like this are a great place to share and learn and also to be part of a wider community, but to also cement and critique our own viewpoints and the views of others mentally, strengthening and enriching our own stances. It then occurred to me: it's great that we have all this learning available, but do we actually put into practice what we learn? Can we see the opportunities in which we can use this knowledge and see how it is directly applicable to our lives and the lives of others?
One example is this: when I went to hear Tony Atwood speak last month with my mum, Tony was talking about sensory differences and in particular how if there are multiple noises in a room, some autistic people do struggle to (or in my case, can't) differentiate between them and pick out the noise which is the one we want to focus on. Continually afterwards, two women spent the entire time whispering and wittering right behind my ear. Did they not hear what had just been said? What were the boundaries of what they had just heard - did they only think of it as applicable to them in their work situations or at home? Or had it just not been considered that at an autism conference that there may be someone who may benefit from not having two middle aged women wittering right behind their right ear?! I did send a few glares and gesture to my mum about their noise (and it was noise, it just sounded like sheesh sheesh sheesh on repeat, they're lucky I didn't donk them!) This does leave the question: how can we generalise what we learn? Why didn't these ladies generalise what they had learnt? It did feel like I was back at school with some goon muttering behind me who obviously couldn't be bothered when I very much was bothered with both them distracting me and the subject area I was trying to engage with. When I was bored, I didn't go out of my way to distract and rile them...
Part of me thinks this happens when you are wrapped up in yourself and the small bubble around you (I have been there too), that you do not notice as much the impact of your actions on others. I think also when someone else's experience is outside of your own frame of reference, an action or word is not considered as problematic, like the example given above. I also think the fact I am an adult woman who drove herself all the way to Winchester and managed to get myself through the door of the guildhall (albeit not without some struggle due to the crowds and people blocking doorways) doesn't exactly scream 'autistic'.
I also find this same feeling with the church too. We often talk of things we learn from Sunday mornings or in home groups, maybe sometimes books we have read or conferences we have been to. We do not necessarily see all the openings that we can use our new found knowledge with, which may look to the keen outsider or to someone who this new found knowledge and practice might apply to, hypocrisy or ignorance. Sometimes we genuinely do not see, we are only human so cannot expect perfection, but other times I do think that we can strive better.
To throw both angles together here: we read about autism but don't talk to autistic people about changes we can make and ally them and fight for they cause. Some see autism as 'not relevant to us at this moment' or 'not relevant to us at all'. How can this be, with Baird et al's 2006 figure of 1:100? It is at times like this that it is not only scientific journals that are useful to us, but also our Bibles. Jesus speaks of preparing the way - He prepares the way for us. Shouldn't we equally prepare the way through accessibility? He also says all are welcome at the table when talking at the last supper: that pushes not only a welcome but making sure that we do not block the way of others, through obvious and hidden barriers. These 'barriers' I will discuss at a later date. It's a thought to ponder.
I know no change happens overnight and I am currently very encouraged by some conversations I have had, but I know many more people need a gentle challenge.