Fiona Green is setting the agenda for Disability Pride

By Fiona Green

I am standing for the Whangarei District Council in the Okara Ward 2019. If successful, I will be the first Māori autistic female in New Zealand to be elected to a District Council.

When I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (a high-functioning form of Autism) five years ago I finally got my answer to a lifetime of wondering why I was so different from everybody else.

I’m proud with what I have achieved in my life with Aspergers. I am proud because Autism defines my uniqueness.

Some see disabilities, I see my abilities – and so do others who have an open mind.

Aspergers Syndrome is not a mental illness. It affects the way those who are afflicted with it socialise, and communicate. Motor skills may appear uncoordinated – walking might be awkward, clumsy or just slightly different. 

It is a collection of symptoms that occur together with the condition. We are simply physiologically wired differently. Labelled by some as a "clumsy r*#$!&", "a delusional ideologue" and a "physically incapacitated lump of meat", I have proven these comments are unfounded and I have campaigned hard in my local and business community to change that conversation.

I am a proud and strong voice for the disenchanted and disenfranchised.

I am a Social Justice (Business) and Autism Advocate. I have a Bachelor of Education (Teaching Degree) from Massey University; a Business Management Qualification, and I have completed various Administrative studies. I've written a number of children’s books in Te Reo Māori: I Te Rangi (2006), Taika (2006), Manu Taratahi (2006), Te Punua Kekeno (2006), E Rua nga Weta (2006).

My poems in Te Reo – Ka Pai Nga Tau, Te Kairuku toa, Pitakataka, Kotahitanga, Matariki have featured in He Kohikohinga Publications via Learning Media. I established Business Crisis Support NZ (18 June 2018), to fill a much needed support gap – from my own experience of being treated ‘differently’, losing a business (due to ill health at the time and entrusting the wrong people to look after it during that time), and experiencing the Mental Health fall-out – post-loss. I am not alone.

People who have been through this – suffer alone, because of the unforgiving stigmas. They need to find others – for support, comfort, encouragement, and healing, etc. They need to be around those who have experienced similar – in order to gain a semblance of order.

My Bachelor of Education (Teaching) Degree helps with research, investigation, analysing, writing, presenting information & educating. Aspergers Syndrome and my accompanying physical challenges never stopped me – or even others who have it – from running a business and contributing to the local economy. It has not stopped me from using my initiative to fill a much needed support gap which has attracted people at differing levels of entrepreneurship.

My dabblings as a published author – required creativity. Creativity is a skill I draw on in my business and autistic advocacy endeavours.

Events leading up to, during, and after I lost my business impacted severely on me. Due to a culmination of tragic events –mainly through ill health. I was also diagnosed with an adjustment disorder [similar to PTSD]; experienced anxiety, depression, etc.

I worked with an Occupational Therapist who finally got me motivated again and speaking after I went mute. When it comes to helping others, ‘lived’ experience of mental health is considered relevant experience by the mental health sector – and for this reason I have used my ‘lived’ experience of business loss, my own life journey with Aspergers – to help others effectively, empathetically, and relevantly.

I proudly initiated the first petition in a move to Change NZ Accounting Law – as a move to ensure accountants support business owners better rather than exploiting their lack of financial and economic literacy.

The gifts and strengths that aspergers syndrome brings to my advocacy work include:

  • Being hyperfocussed - ability to focus on one objective over long periods of time without becoming distracted. Allows Aspies to accomplish large & challenging tasks.
  • Unique global insights - ability to find novel connections among multi-disciplinary facts and ideas allows them to create new, coherent and meaningful insights that others would not have reached without them.
  • Independent thinking – their willingness to consider unpopular or unusual possibilities thus generating new options & opportunities, thus paving the way for others.
  • Internal motivation – rather than being swayed by social convention, other’s opinions, social pressure or fears, Aspies can hold firm to their own sense of purpose. Their unique ideas can thrive, despite naysayers.
  • Attention to detail – their ability to remember and process minute details without getting lost or overwhelmed gives them a distinct advantage when solving complex problems.
  • 3-Dimensional thinking – their ability to utilise 3-dimensional visioning gives me a unique perspective when designing & creating solutions.
  • Cutting through the smoke screen – their ability to recognise and speak the truth that is being ‘conveniently’ ignored by others can be vital to the success of a project or endeavour.
  • Logical decision making – their ability to make logical & rational decisions & stick to their course of action without being swayed by impulse or emotional reactions. This allows Aspies to navigate successfully through difficult situations without being pulled off-course (source: Coaching Asperger www.coachingasperger.com)

In breaking down any kind of stigma including disability, I work on the principle of:

(a) talking about these subjects openly and publicly,

(b) letting people know how common these subjects are,

(c) speaking out when there has been an injustice.

As one of my friends (85% disabled) remarked recently, "If one moves forward, everyone moves forward".

I am proud that my disability has made me persist in the face of adversity. I am proud that my disability – has helped others see their strengths. I am proud that my disability has brought me into contact with others with similar challenges.

I am proud to simply be me.

I am standing for the Whangarei District Council in the Okara Ward 2019. If successful, I will be the first Māori Autistic Female in New Zealand to be elected to a District Council.

The only obstacle standing in my way as an Autistic Candidate is opportunity. Thank you Whangarei District Council for taking me and others who are different, over that line of inclusivity. If I am not elected, my messages of solidarity, acceptance, inclusion, diversity, tolerance across the board will have still resonated throughout Whangarei and Northland .

I am also a proud member of Disabled Persons Assembly (DPA) New Zealand. 

Image: Fiona Green

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