I type a lot about how I hope people will see people with autism, people like me. I ask, I beg that people reconsider appearances… whether it is the appearance that I am rude or demanding, or the appearance that I am disrespectful, or the appearance that I don’t consider others’ feelings… please, I say, please look past what it looks like and try to find out what it is!
Lest you wonder, the above descriptors are very commonly assigned to people with autism. Now, read carefully: In no way am I saying, “But I can’t; I’m autistic!” No, no. I’m saying… look, certain things are harder for me and I take a little (er, a lot?) more time to learn them because it is in my nature that these things are difficult for me. Things like manners, social skills, and so on. Autism is an invisible disability, right? This means that, frequently, people say, “Oh, I know, you’re autistic,” and then still expect me to act just like everyone else. Or, when I was younger, “But you’re so smart, I think you can figure it out!” Meanwhile, I had no idea what to do!
I wanted to tell you a short story from last week so that you can understand that I never mean to say that I am above reproach. Not for a second. I make the same mistakes I’m asking people not to do!
We were out to eat, staff and I, and in line in front of me was a little boy, maybe eight years old. He was jumping, hitting, whining, screaming, and otherwise acting out. He ordered food and rejected it twice. They got to the end of the line, and the boy changed his order again! His mom appeared unaffected by this. Me, well, it was 3 PM and I hadn’t had lunch yet, and I just wanted my food, which was right there. But, I had to wait for this picky pants boy and his mom to pay for their food before I could pay for mine.
And then it hit me.
Dang. I bet that boy’s autistic. I bet you my bottom dollar he’s overstimulated and can’t think straight.
How often do others think the same things about me? And here I am, judging, for goodness sake!
It’s so much bigger than, “Hey, I’m autistic, cut me a break.” It’s…
Hey, I’m a single mother of four, I worked 12 hours today, and I can’t help that the baby’s screaming.
Hey, I’m unemployed, even though I’ve been searching for a job for six months.
Hey, I was in an accident in Iraq and I don’t walk so fast as I used to, .
I’m doing the best that I can.
Can’t we all cut each other a little break sometimes? Give your fellow human the benefit of the doubt.
It’s so much bigger than autism.