Autistic conservative Charlie Keeble writes his story for going beyond awareness and into acceptance. As he says in campaign mood: ‘Autistic Conservatives Support Aspirational Aspies’.
As part of the Havering Daily’s series on autism for April Autism Month I have decided to write my own story about the difficulties that I have faced in growing up living with autism. I have been an autism advocate as a conservative and blogger for years and I believe in the civil rights and acceptance of autistic people to self-determination in their own country.
However, I have never always been accepting of my own autism because I lived with a negative perception of what is to be labelled with a disability. This was because it was presented to me as people saying that I was defective and useless. I still get that kind of narrative projected at me, including from people who are not politically like me that use my autism as an excuse to invalidate me as useless and inefficient to be an activist or challenge them.
I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at 9 years old and growing up I was constantly patronised and belittled. I am very clever and creative but I hated my school and I could not get along with my teachers. They insisted that I stick to a second class education which was not able to equip me with the basic life skills that I would need to get ahead in life. They acted like I had no potential and deliberately limited my options.
My schooling was placed in a socially deprived area with a lesson plan that was unchallenging and full of below average academic credibility. I was made to do things that were completely irrelevant to my career goals and suffer constant distractions from badly behaved pupils. The school just used me as a prop to push their diversity agenda. The atmosphere was toxic and noisy there and it completely ruined my mental health and burned out my positive energy.
I was really irritated and frustrated by everything going on around me I couldn’t make sense of my situation. I also got so bored with the lacklustre education I had that in the end I left school with no good qualifications that I was unemployable.My ambitions were completely crushed.
It is frustrations like this that undermine autistics and other people with disabilities from getting ahead in life. I don’t just put my low employment prospects down to ablest prejudices, I put it down to a system that prefers to compartmentalise autistic people. This is excluding me from achieving my own objective to live a fulfilling and happy life. It is the unbearable condescension of people like this that make me wonder that we live in a society that supports social eugenics.
Getting into employment is a problem that many autistics suffer and it leads to them becoming trapped into the welfare system. I think employers often reject me because of my social awkwardness and my difficulty with interacting with them. That is not entirely my fault, it’s just that I never got any proper interpersonal skills training when I was young. Most people including some of my family just saw me as a broken toy that couldn’t be fixed.
I never learned how autism affects me until late in life, and I refused to learn about it from my school and parents because their presentation of it was very negative. I had to learn about it myself from a personal perspective and get to hear from other autistics about it. So I started following bloggers and read books by other autistics to see what the neurodiversity movement was like to them. The stories they had were inspiring and gave me hope to look forward to. Autistics should not be pitied and branded pathetic, but should be embraced and valued by society. Later when I became politically active I started to apply my ambitions to create the autistic conservative objective. I started reading political theory and advocacy stories.
The advocacy work that I do has come with criticisms from the disability community where it is mostly left leaning. I once had an argument on Facebook once with a woman who kept repeating that the welfare benefits that I get is what I should stick to. I told her ‘What you as a taxpayer give to mein welfare handouts is peanuts. I deserve something better than that, for my labours are valuable to society and that I should have a purpose to fulfil for that matter.’ Today I use that when confronted with Labour supporters who mock me for being an autistic Conservative party activist.
I would say to any autistic out there that if we are to make ourselves succeed in life we need to build the accommodations we need for ourselves. Nothing in this nationis going to be given to us, everything we need has to be produced and it relies on our voices being heard and us being given the tools to build it as well. What we need to do is reinvent the way the recruitment process works. If we keep being dependent on the services of patronising useless do-gooders then we are being pushed onto the scrapheap forever.