I am supposed to talk on World Autism Day coming up on 2nd April and I have been thinking about what message I’d like to give, here is an attempt.
I have been working in Ahmedabad for over 3 years now and I have met and known more than 25 children and adolescents on the Autism Spectrum and the most important thing I have learnt is that Autism is diversity, the autism spectrum is at least as diverse as the neurotypical spectrum and if you give up all the stereotypes in your head, you will see a kid unique in his ways of perceiving the world, in his interests, in his interaction, in his intelligence and that’s all.
If you look through their eyes you will see bliss, beauty and joy in the small pleasures of life. You will see things you had not noticed before. You will find pleasures you had forgotten. If you look closer you will also see their struggles, to comprehend, interact and exist in this environment that is often hostile to them. You will see their incredible resilience fighting the barriers the environment brings and I am sure you will see their strength.
What do they need from us neurotypicals?
ACCEPTANCE is all they need. They need us to accept that their way of perceiving the world is real, its their way, not the wrong way, their way. They need us to accept that their way of communicating and socialising might not be the same as that of neurotypicals but it is A way of communicating and socialising. We need to be less rigid about social norms, we need to accept and celebrate diversity (that would help everyone in general).
We need to understand that to build relationships and bonds empathy and understanding is required from both parties. We cannot only teach autistic people an understanding of the neurotypical way, we have to understand and accept the autistic way. Then I assure you relationships are built, strong bonds of affection are created and socialisation happens naturally. I am completely ok with it if a friend does not say ‘Hi, How are you?’ (superficial social norms) but instead remembers every time to ask me if I was feeling better about the cat I lost last month.
When you abandon your prejudices and stereotypes from all the articles you read online and all the negative things you heard about Autism, when you stop wanting to ‘cure’ Autism, when you stop wanting to make them act neurotypical, when you believe that any autistic child can understand, can learn to read and to write/type, can communicate when provided with accomodations, when you start listening to autistic voices, then you will see the their strengths shining brightly, radiating in love and acceptance.
Here’s some reading to help you along the path of acceptance (it helped me a lot):