Sometime ago, I resumed work in a mainstream school to support some children in SEN. I had only their names, and had not had the opportunity to meet them.
There was this young man I picked out from the crowd, I could see him fiddling his hand, his body language, I just suspected that he was one of the SEN students. Lo and behold, I saw him walk into the class, and yes he was my student.
Temple Grandin wrote a book called “Different Not Less” in which she tells the story of different people who have autism, but despite the challenges of the disorder are doing well for themselves.
I totally agree with the saying that when you meet one person on the spectrum, you have met one person with autism. People on the autism spectrum are different from one another, how much more from neurotypicals. In all my years of working with people on the spectrum, I have not met 2 people that are exactly alike; they may have similar behaviours or symptoms, but they are still different from each other.
Well, it’s a spectrum. Isn’t it?
It is therefore important to appreciate their difference. Temple Grandin says that her achievements are due to her ability to think in pictures. I have seen the way some people on the spectrum pay attention to details, and how it helps them do better at certain tasks.
So you meet someone on the spectrum who talks like a computer, and it bothers you? Or he arranges things in a particular order all the time, and it disturbs you?
People with autism have a RIGHT TO BE DIFFERENT. In order to encourage an inclusive society that accommodates people on the spectrum, we need to appreciate that people with autism are different. This does not mean that they should be left to themselves, but by understanding their differences we can harness their strengths and help their weaknesses.
For example I mentioned in a previous post an adult in Patrick Speech and Languages Centre that is very good with dates, even though he has other limitations. He has been taught filing and other office skills in which he has been doing very well. Last year at the Talent in Autism Show (a concert where people on the spectrum show their gifts and talents), he had a presentation where he said what days of the week different dates in history and in the future fall on. If he was left to himself, he most likely would not have been able to achieve what he has achieved so far.
That young man is different, but he is definitely NOT LESS.