WHY WE STILL CAN’T ACCEPT AUTISM: YES, THERE’S A REASON.
It’s 2017, the 21st Century, the 1st century of the 3rd millennium, and we’re still struggling for Autism Acceptance. We have some to accept EVERYTHING and we’re so fond of ourselves, but Autism is still in the shadows. In the words of a true Lebanese, “walaw?”.
AWARENESS Knowing what something is- being aware of it’s existence, prevalence ( 1:68, just sayin’), and impact. Knowing that we have to do something, yesterday!
ACCEPTANCE Beyond knowing, this step requires accepting that these individuals have wants, need, and social presence just like anybody else. It is accepting them into your community, school, circle of friendship and family.
INTEGRATION This step comes after having accepted, it’s doing something about it. Altering your surroundings to make sure they are suitable for people with diverse abilities. Making sure that our one-size-fits-all actually fits all, not just the mainstream.
This is only a problem because awareness is still the first step to so many more pit-stops, like acceptance, integration, ethical equality, and, you know…humanity.
I am going to skip over the whole awareness issue, where each autism advocate can hold a bit of responsibility as to why not everyone in his/her entourage knows what autism is. I am going to go right ahead and address the people who already know what autism is, but they’re still struggling with the whole “acceptance” part. There is a reason, a wall, for why we find it hard to accept these differences in other children and adults with autism. There is a reason why we avoid our friend that has a child or brother with autism, a reason why we just don’t want to acknowledge that stranger with a tantrum-ing child in the supermarket. Even though we are intellectually well-rounded and generously kindhearted, we avoid the A-word and everyone that has anything to do with the A-word. Here’s a reason:
We can’t seem to move past sympathy and into empathy.
By definition, sympathy is acknowledging another person’s struggle and comforting them. This is where we are. We are sympathetic of other people’s struggle (even though some parents rightfully argue that autism is more of a pleasure than a struggle). We know they’re having a hard time and we might even feel sorry for them, and pat ourselves on the back when we smile at them or say something nice like: “Smallah what a beautiful boy you have”.
No, sympathy in this case, it’s as insulting as calling a fat lady fat. What we need to do in order to really help out and unlock that potential of giving we have, is to empathise with the families, educators, and children who are affected by autism. To empathise might hurt us a bit, it requires going into your own struggle to be accepted, bringing that feeling out in YOU so you can recognise it in other.
Go back to that time you were bullied, when your best friend turned her back on you, or the time your first love rejected you. Go back to that dark room where you felt alone. That nightmare you once had where no one could hear you talk. Find that and THEN try to complain about someone else’s struggle. You won’t be able to. Because once we make it personal, we can’t ignore it anymore. Once we relate acceptance to our own self, to our own need for acceptance, we can’t but give it to other people. We would be forced in a way to accept autism and anything else we face, because we see it in us and in our children and in our families.
So let’s forget about sympathetic “Oh I’m so sorry about your son”, and let’s try the empathic : “I know how you feel, how can I help?”