By Aaron Bouma
As an autistic that studies conflicts around the world I have been monitoring the situation in Ukraine for a long time. Of course I knew it was coming but February 24, 2022, was anything but a normal night. When missile strikes and armoured units started coming across the Ukrainian border from Russia I realized that this was going to be a major conflict for some time to come.
I have been involved in the open source intelligence community for sometime regarding this conflict on Twitter and I’ve been involved and talking to many other military people in non-military people as well as other autistic people about the ongoing conflict. We analyze the data of weapons and equipment and strategy. I’m also concerned with the humanitarian effort needed for the people. Since February 24 going into March and April the conflict in Ukraine was a pivotal point of my focus. Our main efforts were fighting Russian disinformation and fake news by the Russian propaganda machine.
I also realized that there were a lot of autistic people in Ukraine who were traumatized. I had reached out to certain groups on Facebook about refugees coming to Canada as well as helping with sending the mental health guide that I helped develop from York University.
Many of the people who in-boxed me were desperate parents with young children who were trying to get out of the country or had very little supports to help them in their situation.
The York University Mental Health Literacy Guide for Autism helps educate what autistic persons may be dealing with in any given time within the mental health sphere. The guide clearly lists the conditions that may come with autism as OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) as well as ODD (opposition defiant disorder), as well as autistic burn out and much more. I hope that this guide assists in identifying possible triggers and stresses and different conditions that Ukrainian families with autistic children and adults might be going through that are not commonly known about. Even though there was little that I could do, I wanted to at least assist in anyway possible. This guide, developed in conjunction with many autistic people, is a very comprehensive guide with a great wealth of knowledge in each category.
As the war went on, we learned about the continued devastation and war crimes that were being committed in occupied territories and cities such as Mariupol, and towns where Russian forces retreated such as Bucha and Irpin, outside of Kiev. The scenes were very much triggering for many of us as this was the first major war that was being played out on social media.
There are times I simply broke down needing to get away from if all. Many of us have been seeing and witnessing very disturbing footage and pictures. I haven’t had a meltdown, but I’ve had a few shutdowns or what I believe to be shutdowns. But I was by myself so it was hard to tell. I’ve felt intense anger and frustration as to why nobody around where I live really pays much attention to the conflict.
Talking about this has not only helped me mentally but it has also helped me psychologically. I spent 3 to 4 hours a day or more earlier on in the conflict. Some of my OSINT, open sourced Intelligence people and online analysts did burn out. I have been feeling a lot of burnout myself lately. But I only spend a certain amount of time per day or every few days on the conflict to help manage my work load with BOUMA Woodworks and my Military Museum I’m building.
This war reminds us of how lucky we are to live in North America and then the western world were democracies continues to be stable and the Rule of Law is maintained. I’m thankful for our Armed Forces and the Veterans who’ve fought and died for the freedom we have. Even though we have a long way to go in disability rights and equality and representation, our friends in Ukraine and in other allied countries in Europe are still behind. As a modern democracy, after the break up of the Soviet Union Ukraine has done extremely well in modernizing as a European democracy. Yet the Ukraine, even before the war, has been behind in autism advocacy and policies, as well as supports.
Certain social aspects are still behind. Support for people with disabilities including autism is not up to par with US, Canadian, British or other western countries.As Ukraine wins, and pushes ahead in the war, we can only hope modernization of disability policy and inclusion will start.
Many times I’ve been emotional about this conflict. Knowing that other autistic persons and families with autism are experiencing heartache and trauma has distressed me. It reminds me of how thankful we should be to live in such a great country such as Canada. If you would like to see how you can help out, check out Ukraine Autism Help.
I was born in Woodstock NB Canada, I was diagnosed with Autism at 3 and Aspergers at 12. My business page is on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/BOUMAWOODWORKS/.
Aaron Bouma has a Mind Like a 3-D Printer and is able to replicate complex military designs into model form.