Friday, April 06, 2007

more on autism awareness

Not children's book related, but this is an excellent insider's view of autism, and what could be better for increasing "autism awareness." It was written by an online acquaintance of mine, who has Aspergers Syndrome and has a brother with autism. (Reprinted with permission.)


Here are some things that I think you should know about autism, or just about people in general:

Autistic people grow up. Just like nonautistic people acquire a lot of skills between the ages of ten and thirty, most autistic people will too. That doesn't mean that the aquired skills will be the same ones.

While autistic people have communication differences , most autistic adults have some speech, and almost all have some sort of communication.

Almost all autistic children have some sensory integration differences. Some people outgrow these; others (like me) don't. One of the most important things you can do to accommodate autistic people is to accommodate our sensory integration differences. These can take on dozens of different forms, and different autistic people will need vastly different accommodations. Sometimes what is calming to one person will be painful to another. Understand in particular that my sensory perceptions may be vastly different from yours- the hand on my shoulder that you meant to comfort me with is instead hurting me and making me less able to be comforted. You could learn a lot about me just by learning about sensory integration.

Anxiety greatly affects everything.

If you know one autistic person, you know one autistic person. We are not identical, and our differences from the general population are not identical.

All people interact differently from the world from day to day, moment to moment, depending on their stressors. In people with autism (and some other disabilities) this is exaggerated. I first read a line in connection with dyslexia, but it works for others too: that if someone does something right, you shouldn't hold it against them for the rest of their lives. Just because I could do something once or because I could do it last year doesn't mean that I can do it this year or at this moment.

You can't assume that you can read body language. Even though you may be skilled at understanding body and facial expressions in people in general, there will be people whose body language is different from the norm, because their body languages are specific to other cultures, because they have physical impairments, or because they are autistic and don't quite copy the body language of their surrounding cultures.

Don't assume that people understand your words, your body language, or your tone of voice. I may not hear you quite right. I never hear sarcasm. And I won't see that you need comforting. Check that I understand. Tell me how to support you.

Autism is frequently comorbid with dozens of other disabilities. The relationships between these disabilities vary. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that every difference in a particular autistic person is attributable wholly to autism.

Autism is marked by strengths and weaknesses; in all people but especially in autistic people, it is a bad idea to assume that a person's strengths or weaknesses in one or more areas generalize to other areas.

Being autistic does not mean being tragic.

Being autistic doesn't mean that I have cool party tricks.

Some autistic people want to be cured. Some autistics adamantly do not want to be cured. Most autistics (including me) are not really sure what it would mean to be cured.

Similarly, some autistic people like themselves. Some autistic people do not like themselves. Some have no perception of themselves as likeable or unlikable entities. Self perception might be based on autism. It might be based on communal accomodation and acceptance, or lack thereof. It may be based on something else entirely.

Being disabled does not mean being broken. It does not mean being incomplete. I am not a puzzle piece.

I may not know how you can accommodate me. That doesn't mean that you should not ask.

4Bligs:

Blogger mcewen bligged...

Great summary - you have a good pal there, with some helpful positive insight. All we'd like is a little more 'awareness,' thank you for doing your bit.
Cheers

4/06/2007 6:04 PM  
Blogger Mary Lee bligged...

This is awesome. So well said. May I have permission to share a link to this post with the teachers in my school?

4/15/2007 6:30 AM  
Blogger web bligged...

My friend wanted the writing to get more readership, so please go ahead.

4/15/2007 11:17 AM  
Blogger cloudscome bligged...

Wow this is great! I especially love the line, "Anxiety greatly affects everything."

4/19/2007 11:57 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home