Principle 1: Strategic Change
The Action For Autistics Masterplan is based on Eric’s Small but Mighty philosophy.
Most people believe that we can only create change successfully if we have a lot of resources, well-recognised qualifications and strong research findings to back us. Eric’s proposed solutions are all designed to create tremendous change with minimal resources.
Strategic Change is what most people will call a “game-changer” – something that permanently alters the fundamental status quo. Such concepts are difficult to conceive because they require us to challenge the unspoken and sacred assumptions as well as the people who are deeply invested in perpetuating the status quo.
Most of the approaches used for disability work take the opposite approach of using lots of resources to create insignificant and unsustainable change. Eric does not believe the answer lies with constructing multi-million dollar facilities that charge expensive fees, paying high salaries to non-disabled professionals to manage a small number of autistics with no plans for successful independent living. Eric also finds it disappointing many initiatives have no better way to support autistics than to stamp out undesirable behaviour and force autistics to follow instructions mindlessly in menial jobs paying low wages.
Common sense says that the group of adult autistics with low support needs should be last in line to receive support. As a result, disability planning puts little emphasis on supporting them. Eric believes that they can play a strategic role in both turning the tide of ableism and for creating solutions for the community, and thus should receive the lion’s share of support so that they can catalyse a chain reaction of change by leading, mentoring and supporting other autistics who have more support needs than them.
Principle 2: Win-win Solutions
Eric believes in Inclusive Equality – that the needs of all people are equally important. Disabled needs are just as important as non-disabled needs, minority needs just as important as majority needs. Putting anyone’s needs higher than the rest only results in resentment.
Eric also believes in a peaceful, non-confrontational approach to creating change. Eric recognises that decision-makers are often not ready to implement what they have publicly committed in terms of social justice and support. Eric also acknowledges that most people are also not ready to let go of their prejudices and grudges, especially those which they are unaware of.
Eric wishes to engage the community to devise and refine solutions that engage all parties as partners to solve problems rather than as adversaries fighting over conflicting interests. Rather than getting in each others’ way, why not support each other to create mutually beneficial outcomes?
Principle 3: Sustainable Solutions
Eric believes that all solutions need to be able to pay for themselves with their merits – we must rely on investments and not charity to do our work. Even non-profit organisations should be able to run self-funding programmes and not have to rely on external funding.
Donations, subsidies and grants can be accepted provided that the terms and conditions that come with such funding do not go against the ethos of the Masterplan. However, they should not be relied upon to pay for long-term operational expenses.
The solutions must all have long-term succession plans so that they can be passed on to competent stakeholders to run in a transparent, effective and efficient manner once they have been set up successfully. Some of these can be taken up by governments as part of a sustainable system for supporting their citizens.
Principle 4: 360 degrees Inclusive Equality
Eric believes that the foundation for solving Humanity’s problems must begin with each one of us. Each of us who is capable of doing so must do our best to become self-reliant and able to make positive contributes to society. This includes being able to take care of our daily living and making efforts to solve the problems we encounter by ourselves. It also includes developing the resilience to accept failure and the ingenuity to find new solutions to success.
It is not enough to stamp out overt discrimination from non-autistic people, but also from the autistics who have developed a mindset of dependency on others and low expectations of themselves. To be able to contribute equally and meaningfully in determining our future, every one of us must strive to be self-reliant, competent and reliable. These are the universal timeless principles that apply to all people, no matter autistic or not. Creating a situation of dependency is a lose-lose outcome – those who give resent feeding “parasites” and those who take lose their freedom to choose their lifestyle.
There are two modern inclusive approaches to handling disability:
a) Unconditional Acceptance (Diversity): “I am different from you and I am proud to be different in my special way. Please be patient with me because I have difficulty with some daily tasks that are easy for you. Please listen to my story to understand me better, and do your best to make me feel welcomed as part of your life.”
b) Inclusive Equality: “I wish to be treated the same as you by everyone else, but I need help to get there. Please support my efforts and guide me so that I can grow together with you. It is less important for me to share how I am different from you and more important to find out how I can work together with you to make both our lives better.”
It is Inclusive Equality, that of treating ourselves as equal to others rather than that of being treated as equals by others, that shall truly transform the lives of autistics.