Opinion piece. Written by Vanya Doval – a grade 9 student.
Today is World Autism Awareness Day. I think this is needless practice that ought to be abolished.
People with autism don’t want awareness, acceptance will do just fine. The main struggle for Autistic people is not finding a cure or proper treatment, it is the refusal of neurotypical people to see them as full formed, complex, beautiful, interesting, and worthwhile human beings. They need acceptance, not a cure. They need neurotypical people to realize that unlike what Autism Speaks ( the best-funded and most well-known Autism advocacy organization ) says, Autism is not an epidemic and a disorder to “cure”. Celebrating Autism as a catalyst for productivity and profit ( for those who wish to exploit people on the spectrum ) is not the goal here. Even if Autistic people are not all savants, mathematical geniuses, profilic artists or obedient workers, they all still deserve a right to exist and be accepted for who they are.
A lot of people want Autism eradicated. The state of Colorado has considered declaring an Autism Epidemic Emergency. Apparently, Autism is a menacing , deadly disease that is malignant and something that no person could ever want. Some doctors, and psychologists like to screen for Autism during pregnancy, so that parents could have the choice to systematically remove unborn kids on the spectrum from existence. What people fail to understand is that having Autism is not inherently negative. There are some distinct advantages that I would like to discuss.
Autistic people can latch on to topics with unparalleled intensity. If the subject is one that the person is passionate about, they can devote hours of concentrated focus into it ,that few neurotypical people can match. Sessions of hyperfocus can yield impressive results- songs are written, books are inhaled , full paintings are painted , years of statistics are compiled – and all within a few hours. This is often seen as a negative by anti-Autism organizations. They feel tasks like combing a teddy bears fur or memorizing the birthdays of all the previous presidents are mundane and a waste of time. However, the oddness of hyperfocus is a part of being on the autism spectrum and should be accepted like any other study/work routine is. Sometimes, people hyperfocusing for too long can mean that they don’t pause for food or water. This is something that can be accommodated easily with just an ounce of empathy. If a loved one with autism is hyperfocusing on something you don’t see the appeal of , leave them alone and let them experience it . If they forget to eat just help them set an alarm and gently remind them from time to time.
When an autistic person in passionate about a certain topic, they become information sponges. They memorize anything that is potentially related to the subject of their interest. Facts, figures, statistics and skills are easy for them to absorb. No-one who views autism as a disease can , in good faith,paint this as a negative. The only possible problem with this is that the subjects that these adept learners love are not necessarily ones that can be used to earn money or generate profit for an employer. Social barriers can be easily removed by us if we make an active effort to listen to what autistic people have to say. Let them know, gently, when you’re tired of listening. Once you see their capacity for learning in person, you will realize what a beautiful thing it is.
Retention and repition
A common feature of Autism is echolalia , repititon of phrases and words. People who are not on the spectrum often see this as annoying and meaningless. This misunderstood feature helps autistic people easily retain dialogues for a play or song lyrics easily. Since Autism makes it difficult for people on the spectrum to understand social etiquette and take part in conversations they often they use dialogues from movies in real conversations. Allistic people quote movies and songs all the time too in day-to-day life . This is no different.
Despite popular misconception, Autistic people experience emotions, and that too intensely. They are complex, biased and passionate, just like the rest of us.They do, however, struggle with social rules and etiquettes. Their odd rationality often frustrates people, but can be liberating and useful if you see the silverlining . Things that people think are desirable hold no appeal to people on the spectrum. This kind of behavior helps them save a lot of money since they choose what they need as opposed to what they want. A stubbornly rational autistic person is a blessing since he/she can call out lies, correct factual errors and speak truth to power. Hence, we should be thankful not judgemental of a person who is not cowed by aimless social conventions.
Having touched on a few of the many Autistic traits that bring relief and joy, all I can say is that being Autistic is not a disability, but a blessing. When viewed through a receptive, non-judgemental lens, autistic traits can be seen as benefits not curses. That said, no Autistic person should have to prove their worth and right to existence by putting these characteristics to use. My point is that Autistic people are not inferior or superior to Allistic people. This World Autism Awareness Day, instead of making people aware of cures and therapies to treat autism, let us instead teach them to be accepting and open minded. For , one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
Written by Vanya Doval.
Vanya is an extremely well-read and politically aware student of grade 9. She loves to write on socio-political issues.
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