For those of you who may not be aware, today is an important day. It is “I Wish I Didn’t Have Asperger’s”: An #AutismPositivity2012 Flash Blog Event. You can read more about this project, here.
Since reading about today’s flash blog, I have been thinking about what I would write. I have worked with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders for over 20 years and have enjoyed every minute of my work. I have been thinking about why. ..
The answer that I have come up is two-fold. One more of a macro thought and one is more of a micro thought. The macro thought is that working with individuals with ASD has made the world a more interesting place for me. I fall more into the neuro-typical category and as such, my life experience is a lot like that of many other people. I am often constrained by the mainstream.
This notion of mainstream has me thinking and I’d like to explore this metaphor a bit. I recently visited the rainforest and for most of the trip, we stayed in the “mainstream.” We visited the most popular tourist spots where everyone spoke English and accommodated our “American culture.” We ate in restaurants that served familiar food and we stayed on the main roads when traversing the country side. The vacation was wonderful, but what did we miss by not exploring away from the mainstream and “off the beaten path”?
Working with individuals with ASD has provided me with an opportunity to explore “off the beaten path” of life. My life is enhanced by the observations of those who see life through different lenses. Their fresh perspectives keep my world expanding and for that I am thankful. When I listen to an interview of someone who has dedicated his/her life to one specific subject and has made amazing discoveries because of this “compulsive interest,” I am reminded that if we all stayed in the mainstream, progress would be slow.
None of us can change who we are at the core. While I sometimes wish that I was more comfortable “off the beaten path”, I’m not. I challenge myself now and then to go there, but it is scary and uncomfortable and I tend to get right back in the mainstream as soon as I can. I believe this is true of most of us. We work to explore the things we are not, but then return to our comfort zone… and this is okay because by sharing our uniqueness with one another, we enhance one another’s lives.
And now for my “micro” thought… while ASD labels attempt to describe groups of individuals, they do not even come close to describing any one person. As I reflect on what I do and don’t enjoy about the each individual person in my life, I do not think of them in categories, I think of them individually, each with traits that I adore, traits that I envy, traits that frustrate me and traits that bring out the best in me. We all have things that we’d like to change about ourselves, but in doing so, we would also alter what makes us wonderful, so my hope is that on this day in particular, we can each take a moment to treasure what makes us unique and find peace.
by Karen S Head, MS, CCC-SLP