Turning the Autism Table

My sweet sister Susan loves to write too! Here is a new one of hers I think you will enjoy

Turning the Autism Table, by Susan Simmons

The following story is a hypothetical story of what I would like to see in the future, and what I think will happen in the future:

There was a time, long ago, when the word autism brought sorrow to people’s faces. When someone said the word autism people shuddered and grew their eyes wide with despair. They shivered, clammed up, and said, “Oh, I’m sorry”. They turned away, in shame (for you), because there was a person with autism in your family. In their mind, they rattled off a plethora of words they could pull out of their hat that mean stupid, crazy, less than perfect, disabled, retarded, and unacceptable. Or, if you were at a party, they either turned away from you or tried to change the subject. Their empathy or -non-acceptance was overwhelming.

During this same time, children with autism were coming out of their structured special education classroom “shells” and into the general ed classrooms. Teachers were scrambling every which way, going to conferences, workshops, getting training materials, taking classes, or becoming special education teachers. They were learning everything they possibly could to help these poor kids.

This was a time when the big table in the sky was turning ever so slowly.

It was a time when people didn’t know any better. They were not educated. Or, at least there were not enough educated people to know better. Autism is not necessarily a disease, or a terrible affliction, ready to put a person away or look at them with sorrowful eyes. It was a time of awakening. A time for us ‘normies’ to learn about them and understand how they think.

One day, the table did make it all the way around 180º and the world saw autism on the flip side.

In the ‘Learning Disabilities’ world, some label children as “learning disabled”, when in fact they are not disabled at all. They just have a unique learning style different than the way we have been teaching for hundreds or even thousands of years. We just don’t teach or assess to their learning style, thereby earning the badge of LD (learning disabled). In fact, many people with autism are still trying to figure us out.

Temple Grandin says autism is a spectrum “disorder”.  Asperger’s Syndrome is along that spectrum. Many people with Asperger’s are highly capable, intelligent people with special gifts to bring the world that the “normies” just cannot provide. We would not have the kind of wonderful things in the world we have today, had it not been for those with Asperger’s. Who would have invented the light bulb (Edison)? Who would have written The Marriage Of Figaro (Mozart)? And, where would we be without Microsoft!

Well, people kept on learning about autism and Asperger’s. They learned that many people who had been diagnosed as learning disabled (LD), were in fact not disabled at all. We just did not teach according to their specific learning style. You see, people with autism and Asperger’s, have very different learning styles from the normies. Some think in pictures, like Temple Grandin, able to see a picture in their head before it exists. Temple can completely test-run livestock handling equipment in her head before it is even put down in the design phase! Others think in numbers, on a highly complex scale.

We learned so much about autism and Asperger’s over the years, that we finally learned how to teach people with autism, as well as how to test them. We learned that by teaching them in such a way that fosters their strengths and at the same time addresses their challenges, they became the most productive, creative and famous people in the world!

Soon, everybody started saying, “I have Asperger’s”, because they don’t want to me a “normie”.

And that’s the way it was!

Susan Simmons