Nobody’s Puppet

Nobody’s Puppet

I heard about the play, All in a Row, the other day. Specifically, I read what the writer had to say about deciding that the character of an autistic boy with “challenging behaviour” could only be portrayed by a puppet.

I know so many autistic people who have dedicated many years to overcoming society’s prejudices, fighting against the dehumanisation and othering of autistic children and adults.

And then we saw this. Among a cast of real humans, played by human actors, the single autistic is indelibly marked as an outsider. Perhaps he can, like Pinocchio, dream of one day becoming a real boy, but for now he’s cast out of humanity.

It’s hard to express just how painful it is as an autistic person to see someone who is essentially like you–the character with whom you have the most in common–portrayed this way. To be dehumanised, an empty, soulless shell incapable of any thought, feeling or expression, whose every action is in response another’s command.

This is the very embodiment of the prejudice and, yes, even hate that we face in our autistic lives. We live the reality of being labelled emotionless, incompetent, unfeeling, thoughtless. The agonising wounds of our experiences are opened afresh by this careless action, by seeing this puppet represent every insult levelled at us by our bullies and abusers.

And that is why using a puppet to portray an autistic person among a cast of human actors is unacceptable.

An empty boy with empty head,
My only life is what you bring
In gift each day, my will is yours.
I go where you direct my string.

What do you see inside this shell,
Behind this vacant glassy stare?
Could anybody care enough
To ever see the person there?

I didn't ask to be your puppet
To play this part that you defined.
Am I lost, forever other,
Denied my place with human kind?
It’s Hard to be Different

It’s Hard to be Different

At school I would watch as the other kids played
Left out on the edges and that's where I stayed
Forever the outcast, forever afraid
It's hard to be different, take it from me
It's hard to be different, take it from me
The skills I was taught served me poorly in life
Like holding my tongue, the obedient wife
But never a word about facing a knife
Learning compliance was no good to me
Learning compliance was no good to me
I've taken the beatings, got bruised blue and black
Scarred deep in my mind after verbal attack
So well did I learn that you never fight back
Obeying their rules didn't go well for me
Obeying their rules didn't go well for me
The ones who oppress us stand guard at the gates
I knelt and I begged just for scraps from their plates
The loss of my dignity painfully grates
The autism industry don't speak for me
The autism industry don't speak for me
I've heard about heroes, I've listened to songs
Of fighting injustice and righting the wrongs
But my heart it won't heal until it belongs
Autistic culture is something to see
Autistic culture is somewhere to be
If you want to help your people then stand next to me
If you want to help our people then stand up with me

(To the tune of Working Class Hero)

My Mother

My Mother

Where are you now, my mother?
Was death the end you wanted,
Or does the pain of leaving
Echo still beyond the grave?
Where did you go, my mother?
My briny tears have yet to
Fill the aching void where once
Your life sang oh! so brightly.
Why did you leave, my mother?
You were taken in the night.
So many things I never
Had the chance to share with you.
Where are you now, my mother?
Did you ever know the love
I carry still but could not
Say the words to give to you?
Rising Dark

Rising Dark

Day 29 of 30 Days of Poetry

A pencil and acrylic sketch on paper of a girl sat looking dejected, arms around her knees and head down, in front of a lit candle with a glowing halo around the flame. Around her is darkness out of which are rising black nightmare figures
Across the fields they fly,
Fleet shadow wraiths unseen
By stolid human eye.

Yet keener souls divine:
Dogs bark a herald cry
Then cower with a whine.

Foul spirits of the night
Round my lost soul entwine,
All summoned to my plight.

The candle flame burns lean,
Its feeble dying light
Faint hope to stand between.