Vent on How People View Autism

So, I’ve been researching places to buy gluten-free foods for Troy and I came across a website where this lady educates people about how autism can be recovered from by living a gluten-free, casein-free lifestyle. While I don’t doubt that in some cases diet and lifestyle changes can help with different illnesses and conditions, I have been appalled by the views of some of this lady’s followers.

Now, I’m not dogging her at all, I think she is doing something very wonderful by educating people about an option they have and providing a supportive and informative  environment for parents of autistic children. I just am slightly sickened by some of the comments of her readers. This one lady was going on about how not-normal her child is because he is autistic (though several times she reassures that it is just a very mild case) and that she is doing everything she can to make her child normal. Seriously? Are you freaking kidding me? Whatever happened to loving your child the way they are? Sure, autism isn’t the easiest condition to live with, but for heaven’s sake, it doesn’t make your child abnormal. Sure, they’re different, but they’re still human. Autism isn’t something to be ashamed of. And you can’t MAKE an autistic child be ‘normal’. Like every other human being on the planet, they are who they are. We all have issues and problems. Autistic children and other people with disabilities just happen to have more noticeable challenges.

It also is upsetting to see people consoling each other for having autistic children. A common phrase in the comments thread is ‘I’m so sorry for your misfortune’ and one lady said she mourns for her child. Good grief. The child isn’t dead.

Maybe I’m just having a lack of empathy or something. I don’t know. I just don’t think having an autistic child is as detrimental as some of these people are making it out to be. Yes, I believe that raising an autistic child would be a challenge. But it’s not a death sentence for anyone.

I wonder if any of these people realize the amazing things their children are capable of. I mean, autistic children see the world so much differently than do the rest of us. They have an astounding capacity for knowledge and detail, they just have trouble verbalizing it. The brains of autistic children function at such a high level that they can process information so much faster and clearer than the rest of us can. Sure, they have trouble with some of the basic elements of caring for themselves, but that’s just because their brains are functioning on a different level. Imagine how interesting it would be to spend a day or an hour in the mind of an autistic child, or any child with a disability, to see how they view the world. I imagine there would be a whole lot more love and acceptance in their hearts than in the rest of ours.

When I lived in Moore, Oklahoma, my calling in church was to teach the 7-8 year old children. There was a little boy in my class who had Asperger Syndrome. Asperger is a high-functioning form of autism. It was an interesting experience having this little boy in my class. I learned that while he had this challenge, I didn’t need to treat him too differently than the other kids. He had anxiety when his mom first dropped him off for class, but if I let him sit on my lap and rock back and forth, he was okay after a few minutes. In class, if we sang an active song at the beginning of class, he would be calm for a bit. You could tell it was time to change things up when he started making this strange moaning noise. Some days, though, he just couldn’t be pacified and we just had to deal with him making his noises all during class. Give him a paper and some crayons and he was a happy little camper. It was great. One day my ex-husband (he taught the class with me) and I were having an especially challenging time keeping the little boy in his seat, so I got him some paper and crayons and sat with him and asked him to draw things for me. I was amazed at how he could draw out the street he lived on and directions to his house from the church. So much detail, down to the lines on the road directing traffic through intersections.

The one thing I loved about this little boy was that he was almost always smiling. Even when he was laying on the floor in the middle of class doing his moaning hum because he wanted his mom, if you would speak gently to him, he would smile. Still wouldn’t get up off the floor, but he would smile at you. The only time I ever saw him stop smiling was when someone would push him or be sharp with him. But as soon as the person said they were sorry, he would start smiling and rocking again. I kinda miss him.

That whole experience taught me that children with those types of challenges are really not all that different. Take your own social circle. Can you treat every single one of them the same and expect the same exact reaction from each of them? No. One friend you have to be cautious around one topic and another friend you have to approach  in a different way. Some people you can joke in a sarcastic way and other people you have to avoid that type of humor. People from different countries or different levels of political or professional scales receive different treatment. Most people aren’t going to joke with their boss the same way they joke with a coworker. and a diplomat or foreign national is going to require different considerations for their customs and behaviors. Autistic children are the same way. You just have to give them a different approach. Sure, different levels of autism are harder to deal with than others, but it all boils down to the same thing: autistic children are human beings. They aren’t freaks and the diagnosis of autism isn’t something to bemoan or mourn over.

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