Anupama writes a letter to her 18-years old daughter. Read what she has to say.
“Don’t make a kid with Autism feel like a lab rat,” says the author, “they are much more than ‘autistic’, and we should discard these labels.”
If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism. – Stephen Shore
What is Autism? Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication.
A kid with Autism. Autistic. Labelled: ASD. And there come some additional, harmful labels along with this. Weirdo. Stupid. Abnormal.
It bothers me that this society is so steeped in its stereotypes and stigma, that no matter how hard we try, it is still so hard for us to accept everyone as they are as we move along in life.
We are build to judge, to comment, to raise brows. It is so deep in us, in our blood, that it is so hard to shed these things we are wearing.
What we, us a community, really need now is understanding the differences and accepting it.
No. No. Not PITY. Yes. It may make you feel like you are compassionate, you are kind. But pity is not what they need or deserve. Empathy. Understanding. Acceptance. Inclusion. That is what they need.
A kid with Autism.
Is that who he is? Just that?
I refuse to believe that. I refuse to believe that he is just his symptoms. That he is only his symptoms.
Sometimes it feels like it, isn’t it? These labels bring with them a kind of stigma that cannot be erased even when you try really, really hard to erase them.
Oh, yes, he has Autism.
‘Tch. Tch. Oh my God. So sad.’
You hear it said. You might even have said it. And suddenly everyone acts like they understand who he is. Like they know who he is.
No, we don’t understand who he is. Yes, we understand his symptoms, but under it is a person, who dreams in his own way, who dares, hopes, lives.
His symptoms doesn’t give us a special microscope to look into his mind, his heart.
He is unique, special in his own, incredible way. He is not abnormal. He is ‘Normal’, in his own way. (And everyone is unique, normal in their own way, and we have to have an open heart and accept it).
And that is what we need to understand. First and foremost to welcome them into our world. Don’t push them out. They have a right to be here, just as much as you have.
Yes, it is incredible to give them a special school, a special environment so that not to overwhelm them, distress them. All good, if it is what they want. But when they want to come out of it, give them access to the everyday world without prejudice. Give them the place to thrive and grow along with you.
This world has always, always thrust people they don’t understand (I mean, this is the world that called philosophers as madmen.) inside a narrow box, and refused to acknowledge or accept their intelligence. It might be because our mind works in a rather narrow spectrum, that we cannot comprehend the wider spectrum of those kids ‘in the spectrum’.
We suffocate these special kids, their talents, because… We don’t really know what else to do with them, their incredible mind.
And it is really disturbing.
We have grown, as a society, as humans, as a community and yet… We are still in the bottom when it comes to these kind of things. We are still judgmental, still closed-minded.
(We must teach our kids about this, too, so that they can treat them as equals when these kids go to school with them.)
What we need is to open our hearts and minds.
Understanding that he is not only his symptoms, is the first way to liberate ourself from these stereotypic circles.
It is about time we come out of it.
Open your eyes.
Look at him. Not out of pity or disgust or something degrading.
Look at him as he is. A unique, special individual.
He is so much more than that.
Don’t make him feel like a lab rat. He is not.
Yes, that kid with Autism, she hates bright light and looking you in the eyes, but she knows everything that is to know about trains.
And, that kid with Autism, she hates loud noises, it makes her feel terrible, she uses noise-cancellation headphones and she only wears 100% cotton, but she can recite every Shakespeare sonnet without a hitch.
Yes, that kid with Autism, he only eats one vegetable and everything else feel like rock on his tongue, but he can paint pictures that can touch your soul.
Yes, that kid with Autism, he can not make eye contact and he sometimes don’t know even if someone is calling him, but he can sing like an angel.
Yes, that kid with Autism, she is non-verbal. But she writes poetry and play piano like a prodigy.
Yes, that kid with Autism often lives inside his mind, and the world inside his mind is rich and pure and magical and impossible for us to imagine, so try not to imagine or judge.
ASD is not and will never be their Identity.
They are so, so much more.
They deserve everything and more.
A version of this was first published here.
Image source: shutterstock
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