A person with autism should not be treated like a little puppy that you see at the park, pet and love on for two minutes, then walk away from, not thinking about again.
Unlike a dog, people with autism know what’s going on- they have minds and feelings.
As for the everyday reality of autism, it is something that cannot be defined by a brief statement of words. Those unfamiliar with it might find compassion difficult to fathom.
To bring some light to the subject, consider this:
Alex, 11 years old, loves to watch slime videos and Veggie Tales, avidly drinks chocolate milk, eats Popeye’s biscuits and will take a butterfly kiss when you give him one. These are things I could tell you about any kid, and you would not suspect they have autism. Alex can smile out the window of a car for two hours, walk in and out of a room 10 times before it feels right and if you ever want him to walk away from his iPad, the video playing must run its course first- even with 10 minutes left. With each of these quirks, people should know that Alex deserves to be emotionally invested in. Behind the wall his cognitive functions and dysfunctions have built, Alex has a voice and an equal role in our society.
Taking these things into consideration, you should know that 2.8 million people, over 1.7 percent of the United States population, share with Alex the struggles and quirks of autism. This number can also be interpreted as 1 in every 59 people are born with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This growing statistic indicates the growing need for awareness.
If there isn’t an evident need for loving people with autism in those numbers, know this: autism is a disorder spectrum of function that affects social interaction, personal thought processes and behavior control.
In contrast to Alex:
Tristan, 14 years-old, makes short films with animated characters, participates in integrated classes at school, drinks Diet Coke, enjoys Six Flags Fiesta Texas and finds great pleasure in Spongebob and Thomas the Train.
Mateo, 11 years old, will ask anyone any question he has, wears sunglasses even in a dark room, expresses nearly every emotion he feels, shows affection in ways that cannot be earned but are merely given, and despite always being on the move, he can and will attend “big church” and learn.
What is most lovely about each of these boys is the fact that they are special. They epitomize the complexity of autism and its unpredictable nature. And, as much as this is true, it comes by not merely treating them like puppies in the park.
Becoming familiar with human nature is never an easy process, but it is essential in building relationships founded on love and compassion. Similarly, becoming familiar with the nature of autism is a process that all people should be knowledgeable in and comfortable with. All in all, we should love our neighbors, even the ones with autism.