Dearest WhatDo Customer,
Launch day is upon us, and on this day, we give a tremendous amount of love and gratitude to all neurodivergent individuals whose paths we’ve crossed – friends we’ve met at my eight-year-old autistic son Lumen’s school, through research we participated in, in occupational and speech and language therapy classes, in sessions developed to educate parents, at various cultural institutions, at designated autistic visitor events, through social media, at conferences, during our Flute Theatre sessions, and most importantly, through spending time with autistic individuals while developing WhatDo.
This past year more than any other has shown us that we human beings rely on connection and hope. And that we need compassion and empathy. I am of the mindset that neurodivergent individuals deserve more compassion and more empathy than ‘predominant neurotypes’ (as coined by Luke Beardon). According to the World Health Organization, one in 160 children worldwide has an autism diagnosis. This puts autistic individuals in the minority. Imagine having to navigate a space with 159 other people whose norms you may not understand, whose language you may not understand, whose scents and sounds may make you feel ill or cause you pain.
Every single day, I look at Lumen and feel a hyper-empathy for what he has to endure negotiating this world, he who also suffers from sensory processing disorder – as a lot of autistic individuals do – and does not like wearing clothing or shoes, who can’t bear numerous sounds and wears ear defenders most of the time, who is nonverbal and struggles to communicate his needs, who licks everything as a way of learning, whose eating disorder – Avoidant and Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), also common amongst autistic individuals – means he can only tolerate eating four foods, who needs to jump on a trampoline a few times every hour. Yes, I feel a hyper-empathy, and then I feel an overwhelming joy as he teaches me that I personally have been doing so many things wrong my entire life. I have not listened enough. I have not walked barefoot in grass enough. I have not jumped so high as to get lost in a cloud. I haven’t aimed to experience life outside myself, in another’s shoes (or bare feet) enough. Lumen has changed me, for the better. In fact, every neurodivergent person I have ever met has changed me, for the better.
In launching WhatDo, I’m grateful for my role in responding to a serious need – comfortable and pain-free clothing – as well as celebrating neurodiversity. Awareness is not enough, acceptance insinuates approval, and who am I to approve another human being. Celebrating neurodiversity and celebrating our differences means celebrating humanity. My hope is that WhatDo will promote a deeper understanding of why we think and believe the way we do and to question so-called norms and conformity.
Whether you purchase a WhatDo shirt for yourself, a family member, a friend, or a colleague, I hope the wearer wears it with pride, knowing the heart and soul that went into creating it and knowing that wearing it is playing a small role in changing the world.
Wishing you all your own unique moments of happiness (while wearing your WhatDo shirt, of course),
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