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Tuesday, 2 March 2021

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Talkback UK: The Exception to NORM

Written by Tony Flower

‘Humans were always trying to fit in. Many of them didn’t feel like they belonged. When someone came along and was brave enough to show the truth of who they were, flaws and all, it could inspire others to accept themselves as they were.’ Jacqueline Simon Gunn – The Cat Who Ate His Tail

What makes each of us unique? A baffling combination of genes, upbringing, cultural reference points and abilities; a collection of bones all wrapped up in skins of varying shades, sizes and age. But, regardless of our individuality, there is invariably pressure to conform to what society deems to be the NORM, whether we fit in or not.

Through the eyes of autism, NORM can be a confusing person, a seething mass of emotions and irrationality, who seemingly defies all logic. Why does NORM make so much noise? Why does NORM put up bright lights everywhere? Why is NORM’s world so busy? Why is NORM destroying the planet? What on Earth was NORM thinking of when he voted for Brexit?

And, wherever you go, NORM can be a different person. He changes when he’s with his friends from when he’s at college or work. He’s different when he plays or watches sport, and he’s different again when he’s with his girlfriend, NORMA. There’s a NORM in every gang, the ‘cool’ kid expecting you to smoke, drink or take drugs, just so you can aspire to be the same as him.

Each culture and country has its own NORM. He’s 規範 in Japan, Нормой in Russia, معمول in Pakistan, and NORMEN in Norway; and in every one of these places, NORM has a different set of values and accepted patterns of behaviour.

It takes courage to stand up to NORM and tell him he’s wrong, for he has many followers, but wouldn’t It be a much better world if we all understood our uniqueness and accepted each other for who we are?

Of course, NORM expects me to conform in various scenarios too; and he rarely gives me time to adjust – just assumes I’ll try to fit in, like every other supposedly unique person. Well, you know what, I’ve had enough of NORM. I am autistic and have a right to be myself, whether NORM likes it or not!!

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