Try this simple thought experiment designed to help you understand autism from a personal point of view.
Imagine only being able to interpret language literally
Think about all the different ways we play with words to make communication creative and pleasurable. Now imagine these creative styles of word use such as Idioms, puns, nuances, double entendres, inference, metaphors, allusions and even sarcasm no longer make any sense to you because you can only process the meaning of words literally. This way of understanding language can be confusing and you discover that visual information is a more reliable means of communication. Actions really do speak louder than words and lots of consistent repetition will help you to learn and remember.
Imagine a world where almost everyone has autism
Imagine a world where almost everyone has autism and because everyone thinks, feels and experiences the world with an autistic mind nobody gave it a name. It was just considered to be normal. The world would had been shaped to suite the mindset of the majority so not having autism would put you at a disadvantage. Now imagine that you are the only person you know who doesn’t have autism. You would struggle to get by with your way of thinking and interacting with the world. People would notice that you were unable to get by on your own and you had this strange need to be social. Not having a special interest would make you stand out as lacking motivation to develop a serious interest or hobby. Not having an obsessive focus would be seen as a learning disability and you would have to take classes to cultivate it.
Now imagine that every state of thinking that’s governed by our biology is just another interpretation of experiencing the world. We only consider some of these states of thinking to be disabilities because they don’t fit in with the majority and therefore find it harder to function in a world that wasn’t built with them in mind. Now you understand this you can understand that the desire to cure someone’s ‘state of thinking’ so they fit in better with the majority is a pointless desire. What would be better would be to find a way for all these wonderfully unique states of thinking to find a way to communicate fluently with each other. To ignore one state of thinking and favouring the other is to miss out on understanding the fascinating variety of human perception.
Shaping our patch of world so everybody can thrive no matter how different they are from us is the start we can all make in building a better world where everyone can have a chance of contributing something meaningful.
Out and proud
Parents can become obsessed with the idea of imagining a whole life for their child before they’ve had a chance to get to know who they are. This can be the cause of why some parents struggle to accept that their child could have a ‘disability’. All the expectations you had for them are now shattered and you begin to mourn the imagined life you had for them. Any parent that does this to their child no matter what condition they may or may not have is just building up to a moment of disappointment. No child ever lives up to the pressure of a parents expectations. A much better use of your time would be to accept your child unconditionally and to stop thinking that they need ‘fixing’. Celebrate their differences and unique quirky-ness. Advocate their diversity. Empower their self belief. Take pride in every one of their successes, no matter how small they seem. Encourage them to learn life-skills for adulthood. Learn to no longer care about what other people may think and instead make a difference by sharing your your new found knowledge and skills you’ve gained through loving someone with autism.
Ability not disability
Train your mind to see autism as a different type of ability rather than a disability. Imagine something about the condition you interpret as a limitation, then imagine how that limitation could be used as an advantage in a different situation. Then imagine all the wonderful gifts autism can give somebody. No matter what condition we may or may not have the fulfilment we gain out of life is dependant on your perception. What makes one person better off than another is whatever measurement of success we imposes upon ourself. Someone with autism may struggle to make eye contact or conversation, but on the flip side they may find it impossible to lie or mislead people. Many of my autistic traits could be skills that I could put to good use. My unique perception of the world could collaborate well with your ideas. Just look at this blog you’re reading now. It exsisits because of all the people in my life have contributed to it but it’s been the special bond I have with my brother Mark that has been the driving force that helps it growing. Imagine of what you and your loved one could achieve with the power of two very different minds.
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