Oi! You’re Not Disabled!

Oliver Harsley

Hello there. My name is Elliott Bentley and, yes, I was named after the kid in E.T. If you don’t know what E.T. is, then you really need to go and educate yourself. Also, if you have never heard of Asperger’s syndrome, then you need to be educated even more.

       I have Asperger’s, and it affects me in many different ways in my daily life, but I’m proud to be different and unique. My parents always knew there was something different about me since I was a small child, but it was very hard to properly pinpoint what it was. I have been told, on numerous occasions, that I’m not ‘disabled’, because outwardly I am like any other person, while the inside is where my disability manifests itself.

       Bouts of anxiety, panic attacks and incompetence in social situations are the combined showcase of my very real disability. But, hey ho, it’s never been something that I’ve actively let put me down, as it’s a gift of the highest order. Plus, it has allowed me to have the greatest obsession I could have: science fiction.

       A day doesn’t go by without me developing my fascination with all things to do with sci-fi, as it engages my mind and genuinely interests me. Science always was a favourite subject of mine at school; I’m just in my twenties but school wasn’t that long ago, so it stays fresh in the memory. Sci-fi has always been there to distract me from the perils of modern life and the difficulties I face when in social situations. If you asked me what my favourite sci-fi films are, then I’d have to say E.T. (of course, because of my name); Alien (that chest bursting scene is so fucked up); and my favourite film of all time… Back to the Future!

       I’ve always wondered what time travel would be like, and what it’d do to the world if I were able to go back in time and prevent the birth of Hitler, or even stop 9/11 from happening. It’d probably create even more fucked-up stuff, so it’s probably best that I don’t somehow stumble across a time machine on my travels. Do you detect any sarcasm here, folks? I’m starting to dish it out, after having lived with my dad too long, and I’m quite enjoying it, actually.

       I hold my hands up and admit I have been guilty, on occasion, of blathering on about science to other people until they are at their wits’ end. My use of ‘wits’ end’, there, signifies my very peculiar use of English vocabulary; on many occasions I have shocked people by sneaking words such as ‘flabbergasted’ into everyday conversations. ‘If you’ve got it, flaunt it’, I say, and that motto has always encouraged me to share my Asperger’s diagnosis with the vast majority of people I meet.

       On occasion, it hasn’t worked out how I would have liked, as many people can’t fathom the idea of somebody being disabled without them being in a wheelchair or having a missing limb or, even more distressingly, wearing a big badge with the words ‘I AM DISABLED’ written on it. Mind you, some prick would think it’d be a massive piss-take or something like that. I feel like I should apologise for my bad language, but this is my fucking story and I decide how I’m going to tell it.  It also means I’ve got a larger vocabulary as I can say words such as ‘shit’ and ‘fuck’.

       ‘Oi! You’re not disabled!’ one woman said as I got out of my parents’ car, having parked in a disabled parking spot. (The woman’s pure ignorance is a source of inspiration, as it signifies why my story is worth telling and how important it is for me to educate and inform, plus entertain – if you think I’m worthy of making neurotypicals laugh). Typical Karen behaviour, that! I’ve thankfully not come across not too many of them in my time, but it’s always so annoying when I do, as I think to myself, ‘Why don’t you fucking use Google and find out what autism/Asperger’s is?!’

       I’ve learnt to not give any credence to people’s ignorance, as it’s not worth the effort, and those people are better off living in their own bubbles. However, I have surrounded myself with family and friends who do understand what it’s like for me every day, and I hope that you, reading this, will join them in understanding my condition and accepting my description of how I struggle but, most importantly, how I also succeed in other areas.

       I was always good, academically, at school (well, in the subjects that I actually cared about), but the whole experience was one that both delighted and horrified me. The positives of school were meeting lots of understanding people who empathised with my situation and getting to make loads of friends, but the negatives included coming across people who never made the effort to properly do their research on Asperger’s. One such person was Travis Stephenson. Travis was one of the popular kids, always surrounded by his crew of dopey mates, and he was at the top of my list for ignoramus of the year.

       ‘You’re just an attention seeker, you know’, Travis said one day.

        ‘I’ll have you know, I’m not’, I replied in a cold manner.

       This example of Travis’s disinterest in understanding my condition was thankfully not fully widespread at school but was contained within his friendship group. A person like Travis was never going to lower himself in the eyes of his peers to my standing, which was why we became mutual enemies. I despised his arrogance, ineptitude and distasteful attitude towards girls, homosexuals and people with disabilities. Travis epitomised what was wrong with the modern world: an ignorant bigot who only cared about himself rather than attempt to understand what it felt like to be an outsider or somebody who was constantly picked on.

       Thankfully, on the occasions when I didn’t see Travis, I had my own friendship group with whom I shared my thoughts and feelings about my Asperger’s in confidence. My principal friends at school were Henry Butterfield, Tom Smith and Daniel Thompson; all three shared my hatred of Travis. They were always courteous to me and asked if I was doing okay whenever it looked like I was struggling.

       Boy, how I could do with them now.

 

 

 

Background:

This extract comes from a novel that I’m currently working on. I was inspired to start writing this because I have Asperger’s myself. The lockdown also played a key role in my writing as I have plenty of free time, apart from my university work and volunteering, to put this personal project together. I’ve taken elements from my own life and fictionalised them to create Elliott Bentley. Therefore, I decided early on in this writing process to make Elliott the narrator because it allows for a much more effective way of showing his own perspective of what Asperger’s means – both internally and for the people around him. Moreover, this allows the reader to fully immerse themselves within his mindset and should evoke an empathetic reaction. I hope that I am able to provide a much-valued representation of Asperger’s syndrome in a unique way that increases awareness.