By Trevor Mick
“Stop being so autistic!”
This is a common insult targeting someone’s differences. I hear it daily at my school, by people ignorant to the challenges autism presents.
Autism is not a joke. It’s a reality. People who live with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a disability with which 3.5 million Americans live, range from very high-functioning to non-verbal and confined to their home. A person with Asperger’s Syndrome, a part of the autism spectrum, is typically high-functioning, more observant and detail oriented.
Our society has grown to see “different” as bad, therefore “different” people are often excluded. But “different” can be amazing.
Autistic students should be more accepted into society, specifically school, because it will benefit the student as well a the community surrounding them.
My older brother, Cameron, has Asperger’s Syndrome. He is kind and has his own lovable “quirks”. When we go to the zoo, he teaches us what the zoo doesn’t. I learned about the wingspan of an ostrich. I learned that lions only see in black and white. I learned to appreciate his presence and passion.
Cameron is also caring. When I am frustrated and masking my emotion, he will pick up on this and talk to me about my problem. Society needs people like my brother to influence their behavior.
Schools often decline admission to students with Asperger’s. That label keeps them out–but lets the jokes in. By separating students, they don’t learn how to interact with each other. Who’s a better teacher, whether at the zoo, or at school, then Cameron?
My brother sometimes says, “When I’m not given the same chances as other people, I feel like I have something bad, that there is something wrong with me, and that people don’t want to be around me.” He applied to a number of schools in different countries. That label kept him out, and lets the jokes in. Cameron now lives in a boarding school 15,000 km away from his family.
“Because I’m not given the same chances, I need to prove myself to society, so that I can be accepted” he shared with me. His whole life, all he has wanted was to be accepted like everyone else. Cameron said to me “I wish I was able to have the chances other people have, who don’t have autism, and don’t need to live with it like I do.” We should all want that.
How would you feel?
How would you feel if you were a teenager, with differences, trying to fit in, but struggling to understand and follow social norms? How would you feel if you had grown up living differently and constantly needing to control all of your impulses? How would you feel if upon encountering the major life event of entering high school, different rules applied to you because you have ASD?
We exclude what we don’t understand. Embrace people with autism and you just might learn something. This is my family, and this is not your joke.
- “Facts and Statistics.” Autism Society, www.autism-society.org/what-is/facts-and-statistics/.