Autism is still an almost unknown disease, both as regards its causes and, therefore, potential treatments and, generally speaking, the most suitable ways to establish a contact with who is affected by it. People with autism are often victims of bias and wrong certainties (also influenced by the way this condition has often been described in movies), as well as set aside because they’re seen as “strange” (and, then, potentially dangerous, according to many people). How can we understand the world of who lives with autism? How can we create proximity and dialogue? The “Ascolta i miei passi” (“Listen to my steps”) project, promoted by the Ortica Association in Milan aims to raise awareness towards this topic, starting from the direct listening of people with autism, who talk about themselves in short audio files, allowing others to know their daily life, their path, dreams and hopes.
During the Disability Week (November 27th – December 2nd), Ortica Association brought “Ascolta i miei passi” inside a place that, according to collective imagination, also represents “a world apart”, despite being in the heart of the city: San Vittore prison. Thanks to an agreement with the prison management, during the five meetings organized, the prisoners had the chance to listen, using headphones, the stories told directly by people with autism. Not just it: they also had the chance to identify with the storytellers reality, symbolically wearing their shoes: those of children who have already been diagnosed, training shoes of the teenager who continuously walks up and down to let his angst off or, more, the shoes of a man who would like to become the protagonist of his own life, but cannot do that due to bias.
Bias are a common issue for people with autism- or other disabilities- and prisoners, after all. If we only knew these worlds closely, we’d realize that, all in all, differences are less marked than we used to think. And that’s exactly the meaning of the name chosen for the “Ascolta i miei passi” project. As a native American proverb states:
Before you judge my life or my attitude, wear my shoes, walk the path I’ve travelled. Live my pain, my doubts, my fears, my laughs. Remember that everyone of us has his own story. When you’ve lived my life, then you can judge me