My name is Kourtnie, and I’m on the autism spectrum.
I prefer to refer to myself as an “autistic woman,” not a “woman with autism,” since I think when I say, “I have autism,” and not “I am autistic,” this opens Pandora’s Box;
This invites the ignorant assumption that a developmental disorder is an illness, and is thus removable from the person, when rather, autism is central to how my brain—the tool I use to access reality—developed, learned, and ultimately became part of this social-emotional landscape.
As an autistic woman, I’m always a little nagged by the lack of differabilities awareness within as progressive of a state as California. But I grew up in Orange County, then moved to Fresno for graduate school—two of the most conservative parts of our state—so my lens is different from a Californian from, say, San Diego, San Francisco, or Monterey.
Social climates, in general, are difficult for me to manage. And this is Reason #537 of why I love teaching so much; no matter where you go, the social expectations of a classroom should always be considered the same:
- an egalitarian environment,
- where every voice is authentically heard,
- and topics are explored with human-designed curriculum
- that fosters a love of learning outside (and after) the classroom.
Of course, that’s not how every classroom is actually operated, but when I’m the teacher, I’m commanding the ship, so I can create an environment that’s safe and nurturing for everyone. (In college classes, anyway. K-12 was rough on me.)
Outside the classroom though, the social climate of a school is… too much. I often talk to Chase about moving to Monterey; except, he has the most loving family here, and at least in Tower District, Fresno is quite the charming and warmhearted city for two artist-educators to garden, get married, and start a family.
I like to think we’ll acquire the technology to clean the smog in the Central Valley. I certainly would fund towards it if I won the lottery. We provide too much produce to the state, country, and in the case of nuts, to the world for all this pollution in our air, soil, and water.
Anyway, this coming April, for Autism Awareness Month, in addition to a second year of pretending I’m a farmer in our backyard, I wanted to contribute some of my experiences—as well as useful links to the experiences of others—to further an authentic, public conversation about autism.
Right now, the climate is loud and muddled, like a Pandemonium splattered through the Internet, so I don’t expect many to hear my stories. That’s okay. If you’re Googling around to understand autism more, and you end up here, know that I’m no doctor, not a counselor or therapist; I’m just an English teacher and writer on the autism spectrum.
Just another voice to contribute to the many.
Knowing how to handle suffering, you know at the same time how to produce happiness. And if you’re truly happy, we all profit from your happiness. We need happy people in this world. —Thich Nhat Hanh, The Art of Communicating