AUTIMISM: THE SUNNY SIDE OF AUTISM
By: Ynna Esguerra
When a person hears the word “autism”, it is often associated with the statement “something is wrong with that person” or worse, “demons”, according to Rosie King—the autistic speaker of a TED talk entitled “How autism freed me to be myself”. While people, especially those who have direct experience, are aware of the upsides more than downsides, it’s hard to reprogram a society that has been tied to traditional beliefs. One of the commonly known beliefs about autistic people is that they are “into math and science and nothing else”. And just because most of them do not share the same coping mechanisms as normal people do, they are automatically tagged as different. The sad part about this is that instead of breaking this misconception, the autistics are tucked inside labelled boxes leading to their isolation. Hence, society remained unaware of the exceptional potential a person with autism possesses.
But there is a revolution going on. The term “autism” has rebelliously released itself from its belittling reputation as it is being continuously redefined by itsadvocates—parents, teachers, psychologists, and theautistic people themselves. Their combined voices making its way to be heard by the society’s ears. Whether we are conscious of it or not, the revolution is real. With the help of technology, people are beginning to open their minds and deviate from their traditional beliefs about the condition. The social media has been a great platform for presenting “autism” in a sunny viewpoint. Shared videos and articles celebrating the talents and skills of person with autism continue to appear in our Facebook feeds. People are now becoming informed about the condition and are becoming less indifferent.
Parents are also now proudly telling the world how their autistic child has positively changed their perspectives in life. Some said that they have become more appreciative of little things. For others, being “open to different expectations” do not seem hard anymore. They are also more mindful of the present than the future—making them more loving than anxious. Obtaining the said traits are what they believed have shaped them to be better, sensitive, and compassionate human beings.
Those in the education field, on the other hand, have been very supportive in unleashing the potential of the autistic children. What makes teachers specializing in special needs different is that they put extra effort in knowing the child’s strengths and exploring novel ways to develop them. This maximizes not only the teacher’s creativity but also the child’s.
“Recent data—and personal experience--suggest that autism can be an advantage in some spheres, including science,” states Dr. Laurent Mottron in Nature, an international science weekly journal. Working with eight autistic people--one of who has become his close collaborator--has altered his entire perception towards the condition. While it’s a stereotype that having autism makes day-to-day activities a struggle, Dr. Mottron explains that this is a result of “living in a world that has not been constructed around their priorities and interests.”
He added that having autistic people in the world of scientific research made him a witness of how they can make breakthroughs. He believes that an autistic person, when placed in the right environment, can truly shine, even outperform their non-autistic colleagues. Their exceptional intelligence and pure concentration in one specific area at a time can make them goodcontributors in a certain field. He also opined that their potentials remain unrealized when employers overlook their capabilities and place them under routine, sedentary jobs.
Autistic people themselves are now more more out-in-the-open with their amazing capabilities. In fact, when they are asked about the upside of being in the spectrum, the various responses only boil down to one thing: PERCEPTION. Seeing the world through a different lens, living in two worlds at once, disinterest in the grandiose, unmindful of feeling discriminated--these are only a few of the many traits they are proud to have. If these people already feel confidently good about themselves, why won’t we feel the same way about them?
Indeed, we can say that the perceptual prowess of autism is not only exclusive to those under the spectrum. In truth, they made some recognize that it’s the “normal” people who live inside the closed box andnot them. Today, as their sunlight continues to peerthrough the world, it is a good sight that more people are now slowly discovering and celebrating the fact that they are blessed with autistic people’s kind warmth, not crippling heat.