Friday, April 29, 2011

Fearing ignorant authority figures

Tomorrow I'm going to my first protest.

Actually, let me rephrase that.  Tomorrow I am going to photograph a protest and I've never been to a protest before.  I'm not there to rally with either side, though I am affiliated with one of the groups taking part.  I'm going there to objectively capture images of the protesters and environment for my Digital Photography class final project.

There's a fair amount of anxiety running through me over doing this.  It's not that I'm afraid of crowds - unlike most aspies I know, I thrive on crowded, noisy public situations - and it's not that I fear for my safety too much.

My fear is that something will happen which will trigger a breakdown and make me go nonverbal or start screaming.  I'm afraid of the stares - I sometimes go on tiptoe and splay my fingers out at my sides to keep me relaxed.  Most of all, I'm afraid that I won't be able to pull out my cards which explain that I have AS in time, or that when I try to, the police will think I'm going for a gun and attack me.

My AS alert card which I carry to explain some of my behaviour

This is a legitimate fear.  People with autism are often seen as being scary or threatening when they're in breakdowns.  Schools use dangerous grips and holds to take down upset autistic kids and police taser adults who act oddly or are thought to be violent.  The sad thing is that most authority figures, especially in high-pressure situations, don't know what to do when they encounter autistic behaviour so I do have to fear for my own safety when around trained police.

I called my mom this evening and reminded her of what I'm doing tomorrow so that if something does go bad she won't be as terrified or confused as she could be.  I'm nervous about going into this.  It's a volatile environment where one simple misunderstanding could trigger a domino effect.  Yet at the same time, I know I need to do this.  I've always wanted to attend a protest, and here's my chance.  Cross your fingers for me, bloggosphere, I'm going in.