by Matthew Richards
Photo by slam poet Mighty Mike Mcgee
Autism, you are not my diagnosis
You are the garbage bag I got thrown into
When even ADHD didn’t want me anymore
You are judgmental psychiatrist viewing
Microscope slide me with scalpel eyes
And dissecting with, “You are not normal.
Take pills to change who you are.”
You are public service announcement
Of “1 in 150” that really means
“149 belong” and the rest of the population
Should be herded with IEP cattle prods into the
Designated “Special needs room,” and forced into
The lowest level classes possible so their
Different-ness is not longer a threat to academia.
There is no “Trial by jury of peers”
There is no “Innocent until proven guilty”
It’s “Autistic until proven otherwise”
And you have to deceive, persuade, and negotiate
With Guantanamo guidance counselors
To prove you are worthy of respect
To prove you are worthy of college
To prove you are worthy of accomplishment.
There is no escape tunnel
Lawsuits are a pointless, money is power,
And there’s no such thing as “misdiagnosis”
Autism, you are the bell I cannot unring
All I can do is sneak behind teachers,
Cover their ears, intercept transcripts,
And convince them there’s another Matthew Richards.
But hiding from a hurricane every day is difficult
And the day he asked, “Are the special needs kids
Even in upper level classes?”
I wanted to dig my fingernails into the chalkboard
And scream, “We exist!
We are the gum paved into the school patio
We are the lockers without numbers in the corner of the basement
We are the names on the attendance list
The teachers can never pronounce
We are the ghosts that will haunt the halls of this high school
Just as unnoticed and forgotten as when we were alive.”
But instead, I shrugged,
Erased the board, and sat at my desk
Because if he couldn’t see my SPED barcode
While standing in front of me, it only
Means I’ve done a good job scraping it off.
Autism, I will not be your microscope specimen
I will not be the Campbell’s cream of crazy
Rotting in the bottom of your garbage bag
You cannot own me
You cannot control me
I am too good for you to have.