This blog post is by Kerry Magro, Social Marketing Coordinator for Autism Speaks. Kerry, an adult with autism, writes about his experiences on the spectrum through his personal blog called "My Autism My Voice".
A few weeks ago for Dr. Seuss Day I took the day off to go read at an autism school near my house in Jersey City, New Jersey. While the kids were wearing their paper red and white hats I read to them two of my favorites from Dr. Seuss, “Green Eggs and Ham” and “The Cat in The Hat.” For the most part the kids I read to were well behaved and really enjoyed the books. After I was finished reading all the kids clapped, many of them jumping out of their chairs. As soon as I was about to leave after having some time to interact with the kids they also presented me with a card. It had a picture of a flower on the front, a Cat in The Hat drawing inside, along with a note from their homeroom thanking me for coming in.
As soon as I left the classroom I started to tear up a little because I came to the realization of how much I really love our autism community.
I started to think about every person I’ve ever met who had autism. All of them have unique stories and eccentricities that I’ve always found fascinating. And that’s not only speaking about individuals who are high functioning but everywhere on the spectrum. Their stories no matter whether good or bad have really made me grasp the understanding of how big our autism spectrum actually is.
I think more than anything else though I’ve never considered anyone with autism “wrong.” I have formed constant relationships the more I’ve begun advocating for. I was diagnosed with PDD-NOS, a form of autism at age 4. I know this already gives me an inside track in many ways but I can honestly say I’ve been blessed from learning from others on the spectrum.
I’m afraid though that the majority of people don’t see the same things I see. It kills me to think that some people won’t see someone with autism as amazing and interesting like I do. This is an opportunity I wish those people would start taking on. To look at people with autism just like anyone else and to take time to understand and accept them for whom they are. In an ever changing society where we are constantly evolving, diversity is something that we must accept as the future. That diversity includes people with disabilities, especially in autism.
So the next time you are in a situation either as a teacher, family member, co-worker, etc. where you may have time to learn from an individual with autism please take my advice and do so. The rewards I’ve received from my interactions have changed me forever. It’s been an amazing journey so far and this experience can be yours too if you open yourself to the opportunity.