Wednesday, April 1, 2015

It's That Easy

There's this sweet story on something called "The Mighty" about a little girl who adjusted her own behavior in order to successfully interact with an autistic boy.

When a Little Girl at the Pool Realized My Son Has Autism

A lot of this is the typical "oh poor me my child is autistic, how terrible." Which sucks because it helps no one to view autistic kids as a fucking burden on their parents. No child should ever be treated like that. Ever.

But the story of the little girl who went to play with the kid is important.

I was sitting by the pool watching my son splashing and squealing, doing his stimmy thing, happy as a clam.  In walks “Jade,” somewhere between 7-8 years old, blond hair, freckles across her nose, all 50 pounds of her, if that. She spots him by himself and proceeds to initiate play. She talks, asks him questions and as usual, he doesn’t respond. About this time, I fully expect her to walk away, just like all the others had before her, but she doesn’t. She doesn’t walk away. Instead, she looks at me and asks, “Does he talk?” I respond, “No, he does not.” She asks, “Does he have autism?” I’m not going to lie here, the question stunned me a little. I wasn’t entirely sure how to explain autism to a girl so young. Either way, my response was short and simple, “Yes, he does.”  She turns around and changes her approach with him. Instead of asking him questions, she starts telling him what to do. “Here, get on the float, I’ll pull you,” “I’ll throw the ball, and you catch, OK?” 

How this little girl responds to the autistic boy. It's that simple. So easy a child could do it. And somehow, it's always the children who do it.

If adults responded to people with different needs like Jade did, the world would be so much better. The reason ableism is such a problem is because neurotypical and able-bodied people refuse to do anything to understand and accommodate neurodivergent or disabled people. Life is already so much harder for people like this boy. Why shouldn't people who are not autistic and for whom the world is designed for make the basic effort to change our approach to autistic individuals?

It's as simple as finding out a person's limitations or needs and altering how you interact with them based on that. Does he have autism? Okay, I'll give him directions instead of asking him questions. Is that so hard? Seems simpler than trying to "cure" people for being different than the majority.

If an eight-year-old can do it, what the hell is wrong with the rest of us?

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