Too often, we tend to think of autism as a disability. However, the word “disability” is typically defined as ” lack of ability .” It may be true that people with autism can lack some abilities, such as speech, the ability to potty train, empathy, withstanding touch or emotional control. Additionally, children with autism spectrum disorders often can not tolerate everyday situations such as shopping, eating out or driving due to the inability to filter sensory input. These issues can be frustrating and downright depressing for parents, family and friends.
We must remember, however, that autism is not a disability . Autism grants its own gifts to those who have it. Those gifts can manifest themselves as stellar mathematical abilities, memory, creative writing, visual arts, or even acting. Some individuals with autism spectrum disorder even make fantastic teachers. In this role, the communication abilities of the individual shine in ways that parents, families and parents initially thought would never happen.
One organization, The Huckleberry Project Foundation in Oklahoma City, aimed to showcase the talents of autistic individuals through animation, storyboarding, voiceover work, and creative writing. Although Huckleberry was unable to maintain funding, the lesson learned was that the talents of autistic people are frequently as creative if not more so than neuro-typical individuals.
Many people with autism – especially those with Asperger's or other high-functioning forms of autism – gravitate to the fields of math and / or science. Some think that many of our greatest scientific minds had autism. The autistic brain often thinks of ordinary, mundane things in our world in entirely different ways and also grants extreme focus. These gifts sometimes allow the autistic individual with the ability to obscure the intricacies of physics, engineering and subjects such as quantum mechanics that neuro-typical individuals might find impossibly daunting.
With neuro-typical children, parents have the luxury of focusing on the child's gifts, because the parent is not having to deal with other behavioral issues such as the lack of potty training. As a result, parents of autistic children tend not to have as much time to nurture the gifts that autism bestows on their children. This is tough, and there is no way around that. However, focusing on the remarkable abilities of the autistic child must be done. Doing so is healthy for the child and, quite frankly, for the parents.
People with autism spectrum disorders can be quirky, profane, socially privileged, loud, emotionally uncontrolled and absolutely, undently tainted beyond belief. As one autistic young lady put it: “We are NOT retarded. We are autistic, quirky, awesome f *** ing people!” Somehow this seems to sum up the issue better than any Ph.d.'s assessment or scholarly paper ever could.