This piece is for everyone who reads “different” when they see “autism”, to all of you, who see “abnormal”, “weird”, “awkward”, “rude”, and any number of stereotypical descriptive words when you hear “autistic”. As someone who has had several autistic people in my life, I want you all to know that they’ve had more impact on who I am than anyone else.
Yes! they are different, no they’re not weird. Yes ! they can get awkward, no they’re not rude. They need you to take the first step, then they’ll become the most amazing people you’ve ever known. Befriend a small child with ASD, you will be rewarded with many, many amazing experiences. Maybe, if you just let your biases go for a moment, that person you always called “weird” can make you a beautiful gift.
I still remember, the first autistic person I knew was a HUGE science geek. At seven years old, he knew more about the universe and its workings than I did at 16. Every time he got to talk to me, he was SUCH a bubbly, fun little boy, but with most other people, he was silent. Keep in mind, we never made eye contact. We overcame that barrier by focusing on something else TOGETHER. We’d look at a book, a piece of paper, a building, a carpet, ANYTHING that would allow for a comfortable conversation without eye contact. Would you like to know how I was rewarded? I got the cutest, most geeky little greeting card on teacher’s day with 33 sf of pi (the number of pi digits required to incorporate every numeral of the decimal system at least once) and a hug. A big, special hug that he would never have given any other adult except his parents.
And then I started working at ABBS. As my first experience working with people with different mental disabilities, this became a whole different way to experience love and friendship and support. I’m not sure exactly how many students there have autism, but I know how some of them are the best learners, the class clowns, the singers, the huggers…they are all different, they are all unique and beautiful. The school wouldn’t be the same without them. My experience there would not have been the same. I as a person, would not be the same.
They changed me as a person. They made me who I am. They are different, and that’s not bad. Today, April 2nd, autism awareness day, I want to encourage positive interactions between every reader of this article and at least one autistic person. If this reaches just one person who let’s go of their ingrained prejudices and befriends someone with ASD, my mission has been successful.
Maybe I can’t take the world by storm, but if one person changes today, I will have made an impact.
By: Rhema Subedi