Why do we fear what we don’t know? Why do we try to outcast, blame or simply ignore what we don’t understand? Why instead of illuminating ourselves with knowledge and helping, do we find it easier to judge? We are a human society, but sadly to some extent humanity has taken a step back. If you don’t agree with me, then ask Dawn Joy Leong and others like her.
An accomplished adult, who till her 40’s was considered ill-tempered, unacceptable by society, because of her inability to deal with societal norms. Her respite came in the form of diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome, one among the many covered under Autism Spectrum Disorder. As quoted to channel NewsAsia, she said, “I’m not bad, I’m not ill, I’m Autistic”. Can you imagine being happy about being diagnosed with a lifelong condition? I am not even sure what is worse, spending almost half your age without a diagnosis, and hence no treatment or support, or finding relief in such a diagnosis. What must have been her struggle? It goes to show that instead of being a support we burdened her life and life of many others like her even more.
Thanks to the awareness efforts by UN and others, in recent years we have become aware of this term ASD and hence our acceptance for children suffering from this condition has increased. We are able to accept them and nurture them. But for some reason, our love and acceptance shield doesn’t cover adults. I guess we forget that autistic children grow up to be autistic adults. Autism is not something you can run away from, it’s a lifelong condition. With treatment like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Medications, Training, and learning to avoid stress triggers, can help people with this condition lead a happy easy life, or as easy as it can get. These people just like everybody else need positive reinforcement, and they can definitely do without labels like insane, anti-social, ill-mannered, bad-tempered and others.
The fact that this condition generally infests social inadequacy, difficulty in communication, including not being able to judge body language or others cues. They focus too much on one aspect, whereas ignoring all else. Social interactions, certain situations or sounds make them uncomfortable, confused. Hyperactivity can be a symptom as well. The fact that they didn’t behave in a certain manner, is beyond their control, it doesn’t warrant subjecting them to further humiliation. After all, we are individuals and not a herd of sheep.
Understanding, Compassion, Love, and Support are the strongholds on which the humanity stands. Not just people with special needs, but we all need it. So let’s ease ourselves on the judgments, the labeling. Let’s not scare people away from getting diagnosed and seeking the help they deserve and need. 1% of world population suffers from ASD. If we keep forcing them to retreat into corners, then we are the ones at loss.
Autism is a challenge, but it has its benefits, enhanced creativity, special talents. Mozart, Einstein, Newton, Andy Warhol, Emily Dickinson, are all considered Autistic and many others. Imagine the world without them and their contributions. Normal is good, but that doesn’t make anything outside defined normal, bad.
We need to make a progressive world, and we need everybody on board to achieve that.