Do I really have to talk about Spectrum 10K?

This is a repost from Aiden Tsen’s personal website from Tuesday 31st August 2021. If you enjoy their work, please consider supporting them directly by following their website!

Introduction

Spectrum 10K starts today. AKA: that new autism study by that Cambridge professor who the Autistic community already didn’t love (understatement) due to his incorrect and harmful theories on Theory of Mind and Extreme Male Brain Theory.

I really didn’t want to have to write a post even alluding to #StopSpectrum10K. Other people have, who are far better at it than I am. I don’t like duplicating information if I think someone else can do it better than me; it would just detract from their work.

And then throughout the past week, I’ve been getting multiple messages from people telling me about how to get involved. That made me realise that it was wishful thinking to hope I could remain silent on the issue.

This piece focuses on the emotional burden of having to speak up about it at all. If you want an explanation of what Spectrum 10K is, I’m not here for that. Here are some resources that explain it more:

  1. Emily Katy’s article, which is worded far more objectively and goes into actual detail
  2. Autistic Science Person’s list of what the researchers should do
  3. Liam O’Dell’s piece in the Independent

Let’s get started. Firstly, the fact I’ve not said anything on [my] website thus far about Spectrum 10K doesn’t negate that…

I care about Autistic people a lot

I really hope that’s obvious from my writing on and even the existence of this website. And then from the public speaking and volunteering work I do.

20% of Autistic children are formally suspended or excluded from school each year, with a further 40% being informally suspended during their school careers. With only 16% of Autistic people in full-time paid employment, we have the worst employment rate of any historically excluded group in the UK. We’re more than twice as likely to end up in prison.

I can tell you so, so much more. I can’t handle telling you anything else.

As an Autistic person myself, I don’t get a choice to not care. If I don’t care and say anything, then there’s no guarantee my own life will change as a result of other people’s work. Or if it does, I don’t expect it to be a positive one.

It’s simply a question of how I choose to express it. And how much I can.

I wish I could not have to write this. That’s because…

I’m just really tired

Today is literally the first day of Year Here, the course I’m doing. I’m really excited! I’m also quite stressed since beginnings are historically not a good time for me. And then I know that I’m the cohort outlier in basically every single way. While everyone’s been so lovely and supportive, I just can’t shake that feeling of inferiority and probably won’t until I get more settled.

Next, this public-facing activism work is draining at the best of times. I’m getting better at figuring out how the media works and how to present myself on it. It’s really difficult to avoid falling into the trap of believing that if a friend or colleague doesn’t subscribe to my website, they don’t care about me as a person. Because my work is me, covering topics I can’t mention in normal conversations, only on a stage or online.

On top of that, no one pays me to write topical pieces, such as my one on Channel 4’s Paralympics slogan. The most I get is a really occasional Ko-fi donation. So not only is it a lot of emotional labour and take a lot of time, it isn’t even financially worthwhile for me to do in and of itself.

The main thing that keeps me doing it is the higher mission I’ve attached myself to. And, well, the fact that if I don’t post about them, people keep on messaging me asking questions anyway.

Conclusion

Right as I was in the middle of writing this piece, my maternal grandfather sent me an email. In it, he commended me for being able to express my thoughts well in words.

These are the moments that save me.

I can’t fight every battle. I don’t want to have to keep pushing for anything to happen. Having to point things out to people with uninformed and unrestrained good intentions especially pains me, because I know there’s no malice behind it.

That’s the case for many Autistic people doing similar work. And people working towards other causes too.

I’m glad there’s at least someone who thinks I’m doing well and isn’t adding to my burden. It makes all of this effort worthwhile.

So a request: please use your voice to try to stop it or get them to change it. Or at the very least, I ask you to do no active harm by continuing to ask Autistic people about it.

If you like this article, please consider supporting Aiden Tsen directly by following their website here!

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