ASD Lib Dems: Reducing Barriers to Activism

Autism Awareness Ribbon, Colorful Puzzle Pieces,  Free Creative Commons Public Domain DownloadThe Lib Dems are currently at around 8-11% in the polls, and with c.20,000 fewer members of the party than in 2010, with less than a year to one of the most important General Elections that this party has faced since we were formed. But it is within this time period of emotional stress and exhaustion where tempers are frayed and relationships between people are made and indeed broken.

Since the formation of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Lib Dems I have had several members come up to me explaining how they would like to help their local party but feel totally unable to go canvassing despite wishing to do so. Whilst everyone on the spectrum is different – no two people are the same – there are some common areas of difficulty such as picking up non-verbal clues, lack of empathy and memory.

This has led me to work with disabled groups from our own party and from both Labour and Conservative parties. We have also been in contact with the National Autistic Society to come up with social skills but of course with a political twist. You could say it is an event across the political spectrum for those who are on the spectrum. Below is an example how being active in the party had a detrimental effect and has led me to avoid helping in active role.

In common with people with an ASD is that we have a superb long-term memory. This is capable of reliving most memories with perfect recall such as clothes worn and what was said. However, like a top-of-the-range DVD player if you play a poor movie, the movie is still poor. It is the poor movie that gets replayed inside the Aspie’s mind. Unless the Aspie has the opportunity to talk to the person about their actions it can cause the person to experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms.

Indeed that’s what happened to me. I volunteered for someone in the West Country and on about five occasions asked him for a reference. Despite it being promised, it never came. I asked for it again, but he still dragged his feet. He told me that I apparently urinated against a shop front in Truro and that one of his team members reported it to him. This was surprising considering how his campaign organiser and now Head of Office never knew of the incident nor any of his interns and other volunteers. One of them had the decency of saying it was probably them. However, due to being mistreated earlier I could not physically meet with him to sort out the issue. Instead of believing that it was my fault and constantly wondering what I did wrong, I am now able to see the incident much differently.

If you know of a member who faces barriers to activism please e-mail [email protected] for more details of the upcoming training event.

* Matt Casey is the Chair of ASD Lib Dems and a Liberal Democrat activist on the Bexley/Bromley border.

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4 Comments

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 9th Aug '14 - 8:44am

    One thing to remember, whatever roles you undertake for others, is that people as a whole are wonderful to work for but not one of them is perfect. Therefore the sum of our positives can make a village, city or country – wonderful. The converse is also true and we all need to walk away from negatives. Like you, Matthew, I remember the negatives in life occasionally but purposefully leave them behind – as I work for a better town and neighbourhood. Best wishes to you and all you do.

  • David Evershed 9th Aug '14 - 12:05pm

    It is generally at times of stress that people’s true character is revealed.

    With the Lib Dems currently polling 8%-10% the party is under stress.

    This is a time when we need to show our true character, not introduce panic policies and maintain our philosophy of free markets, free health treatment, free schooling, freedom of the individual and welfare benefits for those unable to look after themselves.

  • Simon Banks 13th Aug '14 - 8:31am

    What this comes down to is two principles, one common to all kinds of volunteering and (with some tweaks) to paid employment: all people are good at something. All people are bad at something. For volunteers, they’re most unlikely to do what they don’t want but may want to conquer barriers you might think would rule them out for something. So ask them. Find out what they’re good at and like – and use it. The other principle relates to the urinating allegation. Don’t give weight to unsupported allegations and if it has serious implications, ask the person concerned for his/her reaction. Even kindly diplomatic feelings can discriminate.

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