Paul Wady was accidentally diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome at the age of 41, after a run in with the police following his behaviour in a cinema. During the 12 years since, he has collected experiential anecdotes and evidence from other people with autism diagnoses and their families, helping to create a picture of what ‘Aspie normal’ is. He published a book in 2014 under the name Guerilla Aspies, with the subtitle ‘a neurotypical society infiltration manual.’ This show is Wady’s reworking of the book’s half-satirical, half-educational material, designed to question the existence of neuronormalcy and promote acceptance of a neurodiverse society.
The message of Guerilla Aspies - The Show of the Book is communicated as much through its form as its content. It’s a PowerPoint lecture demonstration that refuses to acknowledge the culturally inherited standards of structure and delivery that a PowerPoint lecture demonstration is usually expected to take. Slides are overcrowded with seemingly disjointed information in disparate fonts, sizes and syntaxes, or empty except for a photograph. This approach creates an overwhelming bombardment of sensation and information, from which confusion threads must be grasped at and a personal understanding reached. Indicative of an autistic experience of the world, and also exposing the places where so-called neurotypical experience can relate to the autistic.
The concept of stereotypes is raised early and, as the coherance of the material devolves, it is difficult to know whether Wady is highlighting traits associated with neurodiversity or neurotypicalcy. There is clearly much cross-over. Dressed as he is in a t-shirt that reads ‘Cure Neurotypicals Now’, this appears to be Wady’s point.
We are introduced to various figures from history - some widely celebrated for their achievements, some from within more niche interest areas - and their neurodiversity is revealed. Various types of attempted treatment are discussed, and their inefficacy. ‘Give ‘em drugs, teach ‘em tricks, and torture them, and you can get them to do what you want’, Wady says as one point, objecting to the idea that people with an autistic nature should be forced into uncomfortable and alien behaviour patterns simply to fit in with dominant neurotypical standards.
Over the course of the show, with Wady encouraging us to indulge in stimming or heckling behaviours often deemed unacceptable in society, we get a chance to inspect our own connections to the spectrum. (KK)
Guerilla Aspies - The Show Of The Book is on at 22:15 at Laughing Horse @ Dropkick Murphy’s until August 25th. Relaxed Performance - https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/guerilla-aspies-the-show-of-the-book-with-paul-wady
Guardian article by Paul Wady: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2005/oct/01/health.lifeandhealth
Social story illustration ‘Understanding the Spectrum’: http://theoraah.tumblr.com/post/142300214156/understanding-the-spectrum
What is Stimming? Youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WexCWZPJE6A
Recommended reading - ‘Neurotribes’, by Steve Silberman: http://stevesilberman.com/book/neurotribes/
Campaigning organisation for autistic rights: http://autisticrightstogether.ie
Research paper, ‘Deficit, difference, or both? Autism and neurodiversity’: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22545843
Website for The National Autistic Society: http://www.autism.org.uk
Paul Wady’s website, including links for purchasing Guerilla Aspies the book: http://www.paulwady.com