I have been pondering exactly what autism awareness means. As a neurotypical living within a family sprinkled with aspergians, I have learned most likely more from my family than them from me. Mostly, to step out of my own little box and attempt to perceive the world from the eyes of an individual other than myself.
Awareness means knowledge, acceptance, and tolerance. Making an attempt to fix an individual is not acceptance and tolerance. It is merely attempting to make an individual fit into a perceived social mold, created from social mores and societal expectations. Allow me to make an analogy. It is commonplace for English speaking individuals to expect others to speak English when visiting foreign countries. When foreigners visit English speaking countries we expect them to speak our language as well. If we expect others to speak our native tongue is it not socially appropriate that we attempt to understand theirs as well?
In the case of an Aspergian living in a society where neurotypicals are the majority, the same principle should be used. Aspergians struggle everyday of their lives to conform to a neurotypical world. Wouldn’t it merely be appropriate that neurotypicals extend them the same reciprocal understanding? Embrace differences and the qualities that Aspergians bring to the world.
Aspergers cannot be cured, nor should it be. Individuals with Aspergers are not faulty computers that we repair with a few adjustments to their hard drives. They are individuals, just like the rest of society, who have done great good and brought great advances to our world throughout history.
They are the analytical thinkers of our world, inventors, engineers, scientists, actors, mathematician’s, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and children. We can thank aspergians for many great contributions in the world.
Some of the individuals thought to have or have been confirmed with Aspergers or high functioning autism are:
The world renowned Temple Grandin: An author of many books that have expand and awakend the worlds knowledge and acceptance of autism. She is also a food handling systems designer, and much much more. Miss Grandin has given the autism community a great deal of respect and reduced the stigma associated to the autism spectrum through her candor regarding her life and public presence as a professional
James Durbin: American idol contestant- He brings us the gift of music through his wonderful voice
Bill Gates: Founder of Microsoft whose gift for technology brought us Microsoft. FYI without Mr. Gates wonderful development of Microsoft we would not be interacting with the world through in a literal millisecond via electronic communication.
Thomas Edison: He was the forefather of inventing the lightbulb, phonograh, and motion pictures.
Albert Einstein: His theory of relativity unlocked the mysteries of the world and set fort a path of exploration for future scientists.
John Elder Robison: Author of many books such as “Look Me In The Eye” Through his brave willingness to publicly tell his story from childhood to adulthood, he became a role model for other individuals on the spectrum. He exemplifies the ideology that yes; aspergians strive for and do experience success within society.
Dan Akeroyd: He is brought a gift of humor and entertainment into many lives at times when they did not think they could laugh.
Holly Peete, and Toni Braxton: Just to name a few stars who have become awesome advocates for the autism community as a result of having children on the spectrum. They are perhaps the most humble and grounded public personalities in the entertainment business. Hence my comment earlier that we can learn as much if not more from our children on the spectrum than they learn from us.
Last but not least, an individual with Aspergers that is my hero and famous in my eyes. My young adult, determined, creative, electronics whiz son. He will always be a celebrity in my eyes:-0)
I could ramble on in regards to all the wonderful people who have Aspergers or are assumed to have it but would end up with a novel here. I believe I have made my point and you the reader get the idea.
I leave you with a thought to ponder. If Thomas Edison had been “cured” or shall I say “fixed” according to societal expectations we would be living in darkness, we would not have music cd’s which he paved the way for with the invention of the phonograph. We would not have movies on demand which were born from his interest in developing motion pictures. Without Bill Gates our ability to communicate thoughts via electronic technology would be minimal or nil.
Without the Holly Peetes and Toni Braxton’s of the world who use their fame within a positive venue to better the world for the autism community due to their wonderful children, awareness Autism awareness would be minimal. John Elder Robison breeds acceptance and takes away stigma through his wonderful books and public speaking. Without Dan Akroyds gift of humor, the world would be a sadder place.
James Durbin’s voice can light up a room. Without crooners like him we would miss the gift of music. Without the Temple Grandins of the world we would miss out on an exemplary human being and role model who not only spreads awareness and knowledge of the autism community but spreads knowledge for the neurotypicals who work and play side by side with these fine individuals.
In closing, and as a parent of a young adult son, a young man who incites my passion for children on the autism spectrum And is my hero with Aspergers (And no, he is not my ASPIE son. He is simply my son with Aspergers) I wish to remind parents that it does get better and yes many children on the Aspergers spectrum will grow up to be successful. You will find that some of the behaviors which are irritating in children with Aspergers will prove to be their golden road to opportunity as adults.
The child who over focuses as a child will turn that into perseverance towards inventing or fine tuning better ways of existence as an adult. The child who demolishes and corrupts your computer as a child resultant from their incessant drive to tinker, dismantle things, and put them together again will turn into our great thinkers. I.e. mathematicians, scientists, architects’, and research scientists.
The stubborn child will turn into the adult who perseveres and problem solves until they come up with answers and never take know for one when trouble shooting. The child who obsessively collects one item i.e. fans, dinosaurs, radios, baseball cards, will turn into the adult that uses their wonderful analytical mind to make sense of things like equations, cell mutations in cancer through a microscope, and more.
Upon my presenting my case here, would the world be better if we could “cure” Aspergers. Nah, I think not. Perhaps our other option is to step out of our own personal soapbox, fraught with personal perceptions of how people should act and accept each other for the contributions that our differences bring into society. Aspergians must attempt to understand neurotypicals, but we neurotypicals must learn to embrace and accept the wonderful contributions of Aspergians as well.
To all individuals past and present with Aspergers and their wonderful parents who did or still do encourage and strive to understand their children, I salute you and tip my hat to you for the awesome individuals that you all are.
May we all grow to live in a utopian world of commonality born from respect and acceptance for each persons individuality and an understanding of what would happen if society deleted the them and us ideology and replaced it with WE.
Mari Nosal M.Ed., CECE