Thursday, January 6, 2011
Autism, the invisible community
One of the things that make it difficult to show need for understanding is the fact that autism (and similar conditions) are self masking. They aren't as obvious as physical conditions or some other mental affected conditions. As we walk around we look just like anyone else. I believe this makes the discrimination and stigma we run into harder to fight.
I think we get more of the ignorant responses or questions than most because of this fact. People say uneducated things like; "Why should you get special treatment?" or "Why can't you just be normal?" or "What's wrong with you?". The fact is, so long as there are comments like these, they answer themselves.
"Why should you get special treatment?" : For one there's the Americans with Disabilities Act and all the anti-discrimination laws that go with it. The fact that someone feels the need to ask such a careless question proves that there isn't enough understanding, compassion or education on the matter. Maybe when more people show those qualities in understanding (I prefer understanding over "treatment"), we won't have to try so hard to accomplish that.
"Why can't you just be normal?" First, define normal. Then point out ten people in the immediate public vicinity you can guarantee fit your description. This lack of tolerance is shown in many ways. It's shown by public displays of intolerance with rude glances and comments of many kinds. "Why can't you control your child?" and other fine gems. Again, the question answers itself. The autistic community is very large while mostly still invisible. If you understood, you wouldn't ask such demeaning questions.
Next is the point that has been made to me, to just blow off ignorant people who talk to me like that. If I were only talking about the casual observer, I would agree whole heartedly. You can't educate everyone. There are plenty of people who's minds are closed and locked to all information. But I'm not just talking about a casual observer at the grocery store or mall or restaurant.
I'm talking about employers who treat their employees to this behavior. I'm talking about teachers who give this ignorant attitude to their special needs students. I'm talking about relatives, parents, and even caretakers. Almost all of them come off with, "You don't look any different" or some such similar comment. They don't believe what they can't "see" in physical aspect. I'm talking about people who really need that education and understanding. It would save people from losing jobs, students their academic standing, and families from breaking apart.
So, when someone wants to know "why", tell them to come and read this. Tell them that just because they can't see it instantly for themselves, doesn't mean it isn't real. Good luck, many of you know just what I'm talking about.