By Mari Nosal M.Ed., CECE
As a neurotypical living within a family sprinkled with Aspergians, I have learned more from my family than them from me. My preconceived perceptions have been restructured. I attempt to embrace difference and diversity while perceiving humanity’s uniqueness as a melting pot. A melting pot of unique individuals who possess various talents, mindsets, learning modalities and experiences. When each individual is embraced from this perspective and their individual ability to make contributions within society is noted, a teamwork mentality is formed.
We transform from the “them and us” ideology to “we”. Embracing our differences, and varied talents arising from awareness of said differences, leads to a collaborative mentality. This is a win win for society when a collaborative mentality is formed and embraced through joining forces. Everyone on earth has talents to contribute, whether they possess physical, medical, behavioral, or intellectual challenges, or otherwise.
Quoting the wise Dalai Lama “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” (Dalai Lama XIV)
Awareness means knowledge, acceptance, and tolerance. Making an attempt to fix an individual is not acceptance and tolerance. It is merely attempting to make an individual fit into a perceived social mold, created from social mores and societal expectations. Allow me to make an analogy: It is commonplace for English speaking individuals to expect others to speak English when visiting foreign countries. When foreigners visit English speaking countries we expect them to speak our language as well. If we expect others to speak our native tongue is it not socially appropriate that we attempt to understand theirs as well?
In the case of an Aspergian living in a society where neurotypicals comprise the majority, the same principle should be used. Aspergians struggle everyday of their lives to conform to a neurotypical world. Wouldn’t it merely be appropriate that neurotypicals extend them the same reciprocal understanding? Embrace differences and the qualities that Aspergians bring to the world.
Asperger’s cannot be cured, nor should it be. Individuals with Asperger’s are not faulty computers that we repair with a few adjustments to their hard drives. They are individuals, just like the rest of society, who have done great good and brought great advances to our world throughout history.
They are the analytical thinkers of our world, inventors, engineers, scientists, actors, mathematician’s, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and children. We can thank Aspergians for many great contributions in the world.
Some of the individuals confirmed, or thought to have, Asperger’s or high functioning autism are:
The world-renowned Temple Grandin: An author of many books that have enriched and expanded the worlds knowledge, awareness and ultimately acceptance of autism. She is also a food handling systems designer, and much much more. Through Dr. Temple Grandin’s tireless efforts, her candor, sharing life experiences and public presence as a professional and personal role model, the stigma and heuristics associated with the autism spectrum have been minimized.
James Durbin: American idol contestant- He brings us the gift of music through his wonderful voice
Bill Gates: Founder of Microsoft whose gift for technology brought us Microsoft. FYI without Mr. Gates wonderful development of Microsoft we would not be interacting with the world through in a literal millisecond via electronic communication.
Thomas Edison: He was the forefather of inventing the lightbulb, phonograph, and motion pictures.
Albert Einstein: His theory of relativity unlocked the mysteries of the world and set fort a path of exploration for future scientists.
John Elder Robison: Author of many books such as “Look Me In The Eye” Through his brave willingness to publicly tell his story from childhood to adulthood, he became a role model for other individuals on the spectrum. He exemplifies the ideology that yes; Aspergians strive for and do experience success within society.
Dan Aykroyd: He is brought a gift of humor and entertainment into many lives at times when they did not think they could laugh.
And, Holly Peete, and Toni Braxton: Just to name a few stars who have become awesome advocates for the autism community as a result of having children on the spectrum. They are perhaps the most humble and grounded public personalities in the entertainment business. Hence my comment earlier that we can learn as much if not more from our children on the spectrum than they learn from us.
Last but not least, there is an individual with Asperger’s that is my reason and inspiration for advocating, in every feasible way possible. My adult son who is a determined, creative, an electronics whiz, and more.
I could ramble on in regards to all the wonderful people who have Asperger’s or are assumed to have it but would end up with a novel here. I believe I have made my point and you the reader get the idea.
I leave you with a thought to ponder. If Thomas Edison had been “cured” or shall I say “fixed” according to societal expectations we would be living in darkness, we would not have music cd’s which he paved the way for with the invention of the phonograph. We would not have movies on demand which were born from his interest in developing motion pictures. Without Bill Gates our ability to communicate thoughts via electronic technology would be minimal or nil.
Without the Holly Peetes and Toni Braxtons of the world who use their fame within a positive venue to better the world for the autism community due to their wonderful children, awareness Autism awareness would be minimal. John Elder Robison breeds acceptance and takes away stigma through his wonderful books and public speaking. Without Dan Akroyds gift of humor, the world would be a sadder place.
James Durbin’s voice can light up a room. Without crooners like him we would miss the gift of music. Without the Temple Grandins of the world we would miss out on an exemplary human being and role model who not only spreads awareness and knowledge of the autism community but spreads knowledge for the neurotypicals who work and play side by side with these fine individuals.
Please click this link to read about more famous individuals on the Autism Spectrum: https://www.disabled-world.com/artman/publish/article_2086.shtml
As the parent of an adult son, a man who incites my passion to advocate for and support families and children on the autism spectrum (And no, he is not my ASPIE son. He is simply my son with Aspergers), I wish to remind parents that it does get better and yes, many children on the Asperger’s spectrum will grow up to be successful. This level of success will be defined by them and occur within their time frame not ours.
You will find that some of the behaviors which are irritating in children with Asperger’s will prove to be their golden road to opportunity as adults. The child who over focuses as a child will turn that into perseverance towards inventing or fine tuning better ways of existence as an adult. The child who demolishes and corrupts your computer as a child because of their incessant drive to tinker, dismantle things, and put them together again will turn into our great thinkers, i.e. mathematicians, scientists, architects’, and research scientists.
The stubborn child will turn into the adult who perseveres and problem solves until they come up with answers and never take know for one when trouble shooting. The child who obsessively collects one item i.e. fans, dinosaurs, radios, baseball cards, will turn into the adult that uses their wonderful analytical mind to make sense of things like equations, cell mutations in cancer through a microscope, and more.
After reading about these great people, would the world be better if we could “cure” Asperger’s? Nah, I think not. Perhaps our other option is to step out of our own personal soapbox, fraught with personal perceptions of how people should act and accept each other for the contributions that our differences bring into society. Aspergian’s must attempt to understand neurotypicals, but we neurotypicals must learn to embrace and accept the wonderful contributions of Aspergian’s as well.
To all individuals past and present with Asperger’s and their wonderful parents who did or still do encourage and strive to understand their children, I salute you and tip my hat to you for the awesome individuals that you all are.
May we all grow to live in a utopian world of commonality born from respect and acceptance for each persons individuality and an understanding of what would happen if society deleted the them and us ideology and replaced it with WE.
This piece was originally published here, and is being republished with the author’s kind permission.