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Letter to a young person

Can I do it? Can I do it? António asked (fictitious name). Things seem difficult most of the time, I thought. In fact, most things were the first time I did them, I continued. On Christmas when I turned eleven, I received a letter from my grandfather. I've never received a letter in my life. I didn't know what was done with a letter. They had to explain it to me. A letter was not just a sheet with words. It was necessary to read them, understand them, understand why they were written by those who wrote them. And it didn't stay there. Then you had to think about what to answer, ask or tell. Before I had written my first letter, it still took a while, says António. If there were things that were faster, others took a little longer. If I could read and understand what was written there. The rest hasn't been that easy anymore. And some didn't understand why. Why they are difficult and why they are difficult, he says. If I could already do things that no one else did, why didn't you know how to make a letter from beginning to end, he says. I was only able to send a letter back to my grandfather when I was nineteen. My grandfather died the following year. At that time the letter no longer seemed to be that complicated. The questions I had were different. Who am I and where am I going? António asked. And the questions for me didn't stay there. When I was asked who I am, I also wondered why I had to be whatever it was. Why would someone have to be something to be someone? Wondered. If the person wondered, wouldn't it already be someone? Continued. A few years later, I would already be twenty-two years old and I wondered if I would be loved and desired, says António. I had never realized the importance of this question, even though I had heard it several times. My classmates in college talked a lot about it. The issues were being many. They've always been and haven't ended yet. But I think having had a letter explaining much of this to me would have been advantageous, says António. Maybe that's why I decided at eleven to start writing a letter to the young people of the future. Those who would look like me, he concludes.


António was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in 1994. I was eleven years old. Precisely at the time this condition entered the DSM-IV. And a year later I entered the University. I still remember that at the time there was a lot of talk about a term that had emerged. Rasca generation. We all knew what you meant by scratching. And even if we might not know what generation meant, we could infer that it was not a good thing to be a Rasca Generation. For those who do not remember or are aware, the term was used by journalist Vicente Jorge Silva in an editorial of the newspaper O Público at the time of student demonstrations in protest of global tests in Secondary Education.


I don't know if António noticed anything from this news. Probably not. Not least because at the time I had something much more important to understand. What was done with a letter! António may not have noticed this and other news. But that doesn't mean that António didn't want to know about these and other things. For António, the questions of the tests were very important. And I'm not talking about global evidence. These would also be a problem. But António had much bigger problems than these. It's as if global evidence has always existed. But António did not speak out as some of these students demonstrated in 1994. Not least because António did not understand very well what could be achieved if this demonstration were made. In addition to other difficulties he felt caused him equal difficulties, such as being in the midst of so many people and with all that noise. They had never explained to António that to participate in a demonstration he could take a whole set of care to be able to participate more appropriately to his needs. António only discovered this around the age of thirty. More precisely with twenty-new years in 2012. By the time the troika had entered our country and things had become more unsustainable. For António, parents, siblings, colleagues and many other people. I was born and raised in a country that still does not have a capable policy and that respects people with disabilities, says António. At that time I had a small group of friends. All of them as well as I had a diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome. At the time that was still the name used, he says. We had decided that we would participate in the demonstration. And we all knew what to do to be able to participate. Noise-cancelling headphones were imperative, he says. Luisa (ficial name), my girlfriend at the time had no money to buy some and so we used mine instead, she says. We participated in the demonstration because we had decided that there were no effective policies for people like us. We were all past the age of twenty. Louise was twenty-four at the time. The Amadeus (fictitious name) was thirty-three. Carlos (fictitious name) twenty-nine and Lourdes (fictitious name) forty-three.


Today is 2022. We're all older. I have already made several letters to some political leaders complaining about the need for more and better policies for people like me, says António. I already know how to make letters and their importance, he concludes. But I didn't get great answers. Some of them didn't even receive any response. Not all of them sent as registered letters and with acknowledgement of receipt. I learned that later. I thought it would be enough to send a letter that other people would answer. Apparently I was wrong. But I learned and started doing it. But that's not why everyone answered me. Which led me to learn that people lie and do not honor their commitments. Even those described in the legislation. Amadeu looked for this information. Not least because he has a degree in Law. But regardless of those who answered or not, the truth is that it is 2022 and a lot remains the same for people like me, says António. All of us, except Luisa, continue to live in our parents' house. Luisa and I no longer date but we continue as friends. Louise went to work for a multinational and is currently living in England. From what she says, some things are different. Not all, but some important to you are different. For example, self-housing and employment. These are two aspects that Luisa says are fundamental to her life, she concludes.


I don't regret having participated in the demonstration in 2012, says António. I wish I could have participated in more. If they had taught me how to make demonstrations just as they taught me to make letters, I would have done more for my condition, he says. And I'm not the only one thinking that way. All my friends have gone through similar situations and feel the same way. We can't just be in survival mode, he warns. We can't always go out fireworks, whether at school, in the classroom or at recess, running away from this or that colleague, or that teacher who doesn't understand us. We can't always be kicked out to this and other corners and please ask them to listen to us. We have a voice and we have the right to our voice. And we don't have to be ashamed of the tone of our voice, be it monochord or look like any known cartoon. We don't have to be ashamed of us. But we also need the people who are with us to believe in us. And they can explain to us what this and that are or how certain things are done. Especially if we ask or if we are confused. But to explain they don't need to be paternalistic or condescending. And above all, it is essential that they can make us free to demonstrate, either by letter or demonstration. It could be read at the end of António's letter. At first it read Letter to a young woman.


The participation of young people in demonstrations for human and civil rights is nothing new. For example, in 1965 America there were several situations in which young people were involved in movements for the struggle for voting and civil rights. And in the early 1960s, the young movement against US participation in the Vietnam war was heard. And a few years later, in June 1989 a young movement rose in China. This movement turned out to be known for the fact that the military opened fire on the unarmed protesters in Tianammem Square. And also in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall, we witnessed a movement of young people for rights that were systematically forgotten to the detriment of a policy made by and for adults.


A few years later, already in 2010 another movement created on Twitter and Facebook social networks appeared, which was to become known as the Arab Spring. Whether for civil and racial rights issues, such as the recent example of the protests for the murder of George Floyd. Or the march in Washington years later for similar reasons. Or the liberation movement in India led by Mahatma Gandhi in 1930. And in 1950 in South Africa a few years later, already in 2010 another movement created on Twitter and Facebook social networks appeared, which was to become known as the Arab Spring. Whether for civil and racial rights issues, such as the recent example of the protests for the murder of George Floyd. Or the march in Washington years later for similar reasons. Or the liberation movement in India led by Mahatma Gandhi in 1930. And in 1950 in South Africa in the fight against Apartheid. And the beginnings of the demonstrations of certain groups may be based on the Protestant Reformation in 1517 or the French Revolution in 1789.


More recently we have witnessed young movements created to fight for environmental issues, women's right, science and other fundamental aspects that feel make sense in everyone's lives.


In fact, the civic participation of young people has not always been a reality. And mainly for the way these have been considered throughout human history. In such a distant reality, the concept of young people did not exist. Since he went from children immediately to adulthood. The word teenager, although it appeared in the 15th century, only in 1904 did it appear in a speech by the president of the American Psychological Association. The changes made during the 20th century, with regard to children's rights, legislation to combat child labor and the importance given to education. These and other topics have been increasingly important to protect young people worldwide. And be able to create conditions so that they could make a process of transition to adulthood in an appropriate way and with respect for their rights.


People with disabilities, and in the specific case of autistic people, it is important that the importance of their empowerment throughout life can always be thought out, and the earlier the better. And if we think that adolescence is a fundamental period for the exploration of independence and the construction of a notion of the Self. The formation of identity occupies a large and important period of the person's life and can lead to the triggering of identity crises, especially when this period is unsupported or not adequately supported by the person. If we consider the fact that this period of adolescence immediately precedes the longest period of a person's life - adulthood. It will be necessary to verify that the process of autonomy and independence. As well as the very self-representation and dignity of the person who is greatly threatened, it is not possible for the autistic person to have responsibility for the choices of his life, not because of his condition and respective characteristics. But mainly because during the previous life time was the person being prepared for it at no time.


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