We Need To Talk About: Autism

I read a post today (the link is at the bottom of this post) by a girl named Emma.
Emma is autistic, but that doesn’t stop her from making her voice heard.
Her words were simultaneously beautiful and heartbreaking.

Autism Spectrum Australia defines Autism Spectrum Disorder (herein referred to as ASD) as “a lifelong developmental condition that affects, among other things, the way an individual relates to his or her environment and their interaction with other people.”

What they don’t discuss, however, is the bias exhibited by some individuals towards those who fall on the spectrum.

In Emma’s post she says that some people presume she is unfeeling and emotionless, let me assure you this is NOT the case. I have felt the love of an autistic individual and if anything their emotions are more pure than ours.
She speaks of how she is judged purely because of a slight difference in how her brain is wired.

Emma’s writing is actually painful to read at some points but I feel that this is a post everyone needs to see.

“Many people believe autism describes a simple mind, and that someone like me has no understanding or awareness of my surroundings.” Emma writes “Some people have suggested I am unable to feel empathy and assume I have no desire for human interaction and friendship … Others believe that I do not have feelings at all.  How do you defend yourself against such accusations?  Trying to convince those who believe I’m an empty shell is impossible.”

As a society we are so fearful and judgemental of those who don’t fit our social mores, or live up to our expectations, that we seem to forget that these people are exactly that – PEOPLE.

They’re just like you, and me, and everyone else around us that fits nicely into their appointed category. The only difference is that ASD individuals can’t be placed in any given box on society’s checklist.

These judgements and biases are helped by the fact that it is common for autistic individuals to carry aggressive traits as a symptom of the disorder.

ASD individuals may be verbally abusive, behave violently towards others, or turn their feelings inwards performing acts of self-harm.

Disabled World outlines some strategies for coping with the traits, however, Emma believes that certain “treatments” can sometimes do more harm than good.

“Some find self injury baffling, even terrifying and something that must be stopped at all costs, even if this means far more painful interventions inflicted by others than anything I could do to myself.  I see it as a way to care for and acknowledge the overwhelming onslaught of unruly feelings.  This idea is not embraced by “autism experts” who use words like “behaviors”, “defiant”, and “oppositional” to defend the use of isolation rooms, restraints and even electric shocks for people like me.  It seems abuse by others to prevent self injury is permitted, even applauded, though the logic is lost on me.”

I find the struggles of ASD individuals deeply saddening and the stigma they face daily utterly disgusts me. I find it incredibly disturbing that certain members of society find it acceptable to discriminate against people with autism purely because their brains work different to those of people who aren’t on the spectrum.

Check out Emma’s post and her blog, you won’t be disappointed and if you know someone with autism you’ll probably find it rather inspirational.

On a final note, for those inclined to perceive those who are ‘different’ in a negative light, please think twice before you judge someone for their ‘strange’ behaviours and/or mannerisms. Just because someone is autistic (or divergent from the ‘norm’ in any way for that matter) does not make them any less of a person than you.

The post referred to throughout this post is ‘I am Emma’ from ‘Emma’s Hope Book’ – http://wp.me/p2rNat-29v

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