I know it’s Autism Awareness Month, but I don’t think awareness is enough.
Ignorance is the worst thing that ever happened to autism. I am not using the term “ignorance” in a derogatory way, but in its truest definition – lack of knowledge or education – about autism.
I find that even with this “Autism Awareness Month” the vast majority of the population is still ignorant of autism.
And really, that is understandable. It is hard to understand something that you haven’t lived – at least in terms of autism. How do you relate to someone who has such severe sensory processing disorder that a bright glare, a noise, or an odor can send them into a tailspin? You can’t, not really – unless you’ve experienced it yourself. Sure, you can empathize, but you can’t really understand just what it does when those lights are too bright or the noise is too loud or the odor is too strong.
Autism is a way of being – a different way of being. It’s a different brain, different neurological wiring.
Since when was being different a bad thing?
The way I see it, we are just another color in the box.
Why should I be made to feel like I have to change the very essence of who I am just so I will fit into society? Why is it OK For people to tell me that should I change who I am to make them more comfortable? Why should I be made to feel like I don’t belong anywhere unless I am fixed or healed first?
And I couldn’t change anyway, no matter how hard I tried. And I have. I tried. I spent years hating myself because I was an outcast. I was different. I didn’t belong. But my brain will always be my brain – my autistic brain.
That’s right, I am autistic.
I am also tall, have blue eyes, and like to read. If those things are OK, then why is it not OK for me to have a brain that is wired differently from most people?
I am sorry if my autism makes you uncomfortable – sorry for you.
Instead of looking at the things that are different about me, the things you think are wrong, negative, or that make you uncomfortable (or even offend you), why not try looking at the good things about me?
Why not look for those positives and celebrate autism?
Yeah, we may not understand each other sometimes and I may say or do things that you think are odd, but why not try stepping outside of your comfort zone and looking at it from another perspective?
See, the people who accept me the best, accept my “autistic self” with all its social awkwardness and SPD and even meltdowns, are the ones who stopped framing me by their own point of reference. They put aside their preconceived notions about what a person is supposed to be, how they are supposed to act, and they said, “OK, she’s different, so what?”
They tossed out their rigid ideas of what it means to be normal. They took themselves, their own ideas, beliefs, and opinions, out of the equation. They stopped thinking in terms of that self centered perspective that, well, most people do. I think they call that human nature.
But even human nature can be altered or set aside for important things.
They accepted my reality and they accepted my version of normal. Yeah, there’s been a learning curve (and a lot of frustration on both sides), but I leave the floor wide open for questions – and I answer a lot of them.
I see it like this. We’re all in this autism acceptance thing together. Yes, there is some effort required on your part to seek out understanding, or the information you need to initiate understanding. But how can I expect you to take those steps if I’m not willing to meed you halfway? How can I expect you to do all the work if I am not willing to answer your questions and provide explanations – to help you understand? I can’t. That wouldn’t be fair.
So I do answer questions. I try to help people understand. I try to help them get to a place of acceptance. We don’t have to be best friends. In fact, I am much more comfortable spending the greater portion of my time alone. However, we do have to exist in this world together and I really thing that if you gave it a chance you would see that autism offers some beautiful, wonderful gifts.
I have said it before and I’ll say it again. God puts blessings in some of the most unexpected places – and one of those places is autism.
So please, I don’t need to be fixed or cured because I am not broken or sick – and I don’t want that anyway. I am not defective just because I am not like you. I am different because God wanted to give us a big, bright, beautiful world that is full of a lot of different flavors. Autism is just one of the more exotic ones. 🙂