AUTISTIC HUMANS = HUMANS



This somewhat cheesy quote caught my eye. What I thought is, it should not be a special attitude, just the same kindness and respect we show everyone we come across.


A bit over a week ago, the Time magazine named Greta Thunberg, a young climate activist who happens to have Asperger's disorder, its 2019 Person of the Year. In response, President Trump tweeted disparaging comments about Greta, ungraciously and unjustifiably dismissing her work based on her age and how she comes across. Many other commentators all over the Internet tirelessly taunt Greta's unusual speech intonations and facial expressions, her intensity, her independence, and her precociousness. Greta is being judged not based on her message, but based on her autism traits. Her opponents fight her vital work by judging and taunting her autism.


Lydia X.Z. Brown, another autistic activist, in her article in the Washington Post talked about how "society defines disabled people as incompetent, inferior, and permanently infantile." She further wrote that "this attitude is rooted in the notion that... disabled people of all ages are both incapable of speaking for ourselves, making our own decisions, or having ideas that should be taken seriously." On an everyday basis, the opposite of this attitude would mean treating those with disabilities, including autism, with the same respect and good will you show everyone else.


I was in my son's 5th-grade classroom today. The kids were sharing stories they have been working on for the past several weeks. As children sat at their desks next to their printed out stories, parents circulated around the room, reading and leaving comments. Each comment pointed out something positive about the story, and the children beamed with pride.


There was a boy, who had a short, carefully illustrated story, sitting at a desk with an aide. I asked his permission to read his story and asked a question about the picture. I was not sure if he can understand me, but I wanted to talk to him the way I talked to everyone else. He pointed to where he drew himself on the picture and answered yes when I asked if I can leave a comment. When students took turns to share something learned in the process of writing, the boy shared a sentence that he had prepared in advance.


How much can he understand? Can he answer my questions? It did not matter to me one bit. All I wanted to do is to give him the same chance as everyone else. I did not want him to feel special. I simply treated like any other fifth-grader. I noticed other parents doing the same.


Everyone in the classroom, both students and parents, showed each other kindness and respect. No one was targeted for special treatment. This gives me hope that when these fifth-graders grow up, this attitude will be ingrained and natural for them. As it should be.