When it comes to topics, like Autism, there are beyond a few opinions. We’ve got the therapists, teachers, parents, friends, extended family, doctors, the list goes on and on. We all have our opinions based on the person in our lives who has Autism, and some of us take that knowledge as the Holy Grail of Autism. It’s not. Just because one child has the need to open and close a door six times before he can walk away doesn’t mean that the next child will have the same need. I have a need to have the TV and radio volume on an even number at all times, it doesn’t mean everyone else in my house does too (though they do humor me by making sure it stays on an even number). We are all different and unique, and we need to help our friends who have Autism educate the world on what it’s actually like to be them. Here is a few points that I’ve heard from others with Autism;
1.) They aren’t “Autistic People”, they are a person who has Autism. Like you might be a person with blue eyes, your blue eyes do not define your absolute being. As a society, over abundance, we tend to take the strongest label put on a person and use it to define them (such as, “She’s a lesbian lawyer”, being a lesbian and a lawyer are a facet of the whole person. It’s not their absolute being). I’m not sure if this comes from our need to label and categorize everything because it helps our world make sense to us, but we really need to stop.
2.) Though boys are diagnosed approximately five times more than girls, girls still are on the spectrum. The downside of this is that many times it’s harder to diagnose a girl because she doesn’t present like she’s “supposed” to as a person with Autism.
3.) Take the word “fix” out of your vocabulary. People with Autism aren’t here to be “fixed” by other who assume they know what’s best for them. How many of you have been in a relationship (family, significant other, friend, etc) and was told that you needed to be “fixed”? This is a superior attitude and insulting, to say the least. Everyone has a set of unique strengths and challenges, splinter skills if you will, and that’s what makes us....well US!
4.) The Empathy Debate. There are two schools of thought on this; one is that people with Autism have no empathy and therefore cannot feel for others which is why they have a flat affect and present low/no emotions. The other school is that people with A overabundance of empathy, therefore they can get overstimulated by it all. Having the opportunity to learn from many people with Autism in my lifetime so far I have to go with my own opinion which is there is ample amount of empathy exhibited. It may not come out in a way that you can connect to or assume it “should”, but it’s there trust me.
5.) No matter where on the spectrum a person falls, they all communicate. Much like not presenting empathy in a way that others think they “should, communication is presented in unique ways. Each person will find a way to tell you what they like, need, want, interests if you will only listen.
6.) Relationships, of any kind, have their highs and lows. This doesn’t mean we give up. We keep working on it. People who have Autism have the same set of needs as anyone else, we have the need to connect with another human being and find comfort in that connection. And when we find this connection we thrive and learn. They need to be given the opportunity and time to cultivate relationships to learn how to navigate life.
7.) “Holding it together” is hard and exhausting! When I work I’m professional and say all the right things, when I get home I can relax and be myself...isn’t this true for everyone? I’ve heard from so many families that when their child gets home they fall apart and don’t want to go back to school after I’ve told them what a wonderful day their child has had. The explanation I’ve given, and heard from others, is that it takes an enormous amount of patience and energy to go through their day when they are being bombarded with sensory overload, trying to navigate social situations, and do what they think people want them to do for hours. This is exhausting!
If nothing else, I hope you go away with this one thought and it is that every person is unique. This goes for people who have Autism as well! They have a unique set of interested and strengths and it’s our job to make sure they are given multiple opportunities to foster these and succeed. So now that I’m about to step off my soap box I want to hear from you! What are some things you wish others knew about when it comes to the topic of Autism?
I hope you all have a wonderful Monday and Shine On!