I’m a day late with this post for Autism Awareness Day but hey, it’s still Autism Awareness Week and Autism Awareness Month! 🙂
To be honest the reason I didn’t get a post written yesterday is because I didn’t know where to begin, there are so many ways to approach an Autism Awareness post. Yesterday I was online most of the day reading and reading some of the many great posts out there on social media for Autism Awareness Day. One of the recurring themes I read was the debate over whether the day should be about Autism Awareness vs Autism Acceptance. To my mind it’s just semantics. Of course what is needed is both awareness and acceptance but I think that the two go hand in hand. For me it doesn’t matter what the day is specifically called, what matters is that information is getting out there and that understanding of autism is increased. Anyway, here’s my contribution:-
Historically people with autism have been treated as if they were in some way deficient or lacking as compared to the general population. Therapies have focused on trying to ‘normalise’ behaviours and traits in an attempt to help autistic people ‘fit in’.
Thankfully times are changing and there is a realisation now that what society ought to be doing is appreciating the differences of an autistic brain and harnessing and utilising it’s strengths.
Autistic brains are different NOT worse. To use a simple analogy; it’s as if most of our brains are running on Windows but the autistic brain is running a different, much less common operating system. Both systems work but they work differently.
One of the key areas of difficulty for autistic people is social interaction and communication. This means that in conversation an autistic person may appear (on the face of it) to be a bit odd or stupid or lacking or weird. (Blunt words but that’s the harsh reality). But it’s a classic case of ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’. Behind the sometimes awkward exterior all kinds of amazing things are going on.
Test after test after test has highlighted certain areas in which autistic people are far superior to the rest of us. They have intense focus, an eye for detail, superior memory, superior pattern recognition and ability to process complex patterns. They have a superior ability to carry out repetitive tasks with careful execution. They are perceptual experts and problem solvers. In short, not only are they capable of work but in certain fields e.g. Software testing they actually far out perform NT’s.
What’s more, it’s not just in the tech. realm where the autistic brain excels. Contrary to popular myths, autistic people are also incredibly creative thinkers. To illustrate; if you give people a paperclip and ask them to name all the things that it could be used for, NT’s tend to think of all the obvious and easy answers first and then move on to more innovative users whereas autistic people jump straight in with ingenious responses.
It’s their very ability to think differently and unusually to the norm that will make autistic thinkers invaluable when it comes to solving problems in areas like climate change and alternative energy sources. The world needs people who are able to conceive of radically new solutions. The world needs autistic minds!
As the famous Temple Grandin put it “After all the really social people did not invent the first stone spear. It was probably invented by an Aspie [chipping] away at rocks.”