LEWISTON — To Deborah Lipsky, the rest of us are disabled, dishonest and illogical.
"You guys make no sense," said Lipsky, a public speaker and author who was diagnosed with autism in her 40s. "I'm just trying to fit into a senseless world."
The non-autistic world asks people how they're doing when they don't want to know the answer. They lie and they ignore facts. People with autism don't, she said
"Perhaps we are the only hope for mankind to evolve," she said.
Lipsky delivered her message Thursday to the Great Falls Forum dressed in blue jeans, a checkered shirt and an International Harvester ball cap. The get-up was a nod to her life in "a small, undisclosed town" in northern Maine.
At her home, Lipsky works to rehabilitate animals. In her working life outside her home, she is working to rehabilitate people's understanding of autism. She has written a widely published book to assist emergency workers in their aid of people with autism. It's titled, "Managing Meltdowns: Using the S.C.A.R.E.D. Calming Technique with Children and Adults with Autism."
Lipsky also speaks with emergency workers around the country, helping them to understand what she knows by experience.
As a little girl, she was bullied and beaten. She was 6 when she was literally stoned, leaving a gash in her head. In high school, she was suspended again and again. However, she went on to finish high school and college, earning a master's degree in education and counseling. By the late 1980s, she was working with homeless people and residents in a group home.
She left the work in 1988 to marry and move to Maine, where she began her work with animals. She focused on the work until 2005, when she was diagnosed with high-functioning autism. Her own poor treatment as a girl and her belief that too few people understand autism led her to take a public role.
"They don't have a clue why we do the things we do," Lipsky said. "Stop looking at autism as a disability."
Rather, autism is a neurological difference in the way people process information, she said.
If someone wants to talk successfully with someone with autism, be detailed and specific, she said.
"Be very concrete," she said. "Be literal."
Vagueness is one of the quickest ways to spark a problem, she said. Also, be smart and efficient.
If someone with autism is stuck in line at Wal-Mart behind a customer dawdling with a checkbook at the register, they will complain, Lipsky said.
"We just tell it like it is," she said. "If you're wrong, we're going to tell you and we won't drop it."