- Posted September 15, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Be a true Autism Advocate
Over the past few days I have heard various excuses that I would like to address in regards to why it should be ok to misrepresent yourself online as severely disabled in order to say and do what you wish. These reasons vary and on their face might appear to have merit. Ultimately they do not. I would also like to point out that the person I have been addressing is at least fifty to sixty years old and should know better... most likely does know better.
That would be the first point I would like to make. This person in their bid to be exciting and unique is doing so by making no effort at all. As a person who wants to be seen as an advocate and role model for others on the spectrum is this really the tone to set? It feels more like the attitude of a rebellious teenager than that of a mature adult who wants to support their community.
Parent's of special needs kids look to us, who set ourselves up as the bar that they hope their children can achieve later in life. What kind of hope are you promoting for the future of their children when you act as if you aren't capable of any better than you are giving... intentionally. What hope can they find in a person who is giving the illusion that even as an adult they can't communicate in a meaningful way? What hope can be had in a person who has given up on themselves and expects the world to bend around them? It is my stance that this type of person crushes dreams.
Teenagers on the spectrum struggling with social disorders far beyond the typical social angst of their peers can see this type of behavior as an excuse to avoid even the effort of trying.
I had one adult on the spectrum say to me in defense of this person: "Well, if you know you can never be normal no matter how hard you try then its a wasted effort bother trying to begin with. Its better to be as loud and unique as you want to be rather than to try and meet societies expectations. You get tired of failing!"
This is a rather defeatist attitude in my opinion. As to why should you continue to try even when you know you will never achieve expectations; the answer is simple. The act of making a real effort is what shows those around you that you actually care about and respect them. By making no effort at all, and expecting others to accept your negative behavior simply because you don't feel its worth it to make an effort because you believe you will fail you are telling everyone around you that you have no respect or love for them.
Effort, real effort is all anyone ever really asks from us. Sure we might never be 100% normal, and I know many people aren't as functional as I am. That's ok, being different is ok. Being unique is ok, but not at the cost of your own dignity and the respect of those around you. It is not ok to act out just because you can, because that causes life to be harder on others who really do struggle to interact every single day.
Life is a struggle, whether you are on the spectrum or not. It is up to each of us to choose to keep fighting in order to get ourselves to the best version of ourselves possible. Someone who quietly gives up on themselves is sad and deserves some help in standing up to keep fighting. Someone who puts themselves out in the public as a figure to emulate and gives up on themselves or on even trying to be their best in order to promote an idea that misbehavior and acting out is an acceptable part of being on the spectrum is destructive to the future of all of us.
When people talk about wanting a cure for autism, who do you think they have an image of in their mind? Someone like me who is functional and independent? Who has a family and a life that anyone would be happy with? Or do you think it more likely that they thing of a child who is struggling and miserable? Do they think of that random adult on the spectrum who while possibly good at one thing is obviously (to the outside observer) completely incapable of a life or even basic communication skills?
When we choose to put ourselves out in front, to be the face and voice for autism advocacy we are making a commitment to all our people that we will give the best face possible, we will promote equality and understanding while also promoting genuine effort and hard work to make up for our difficulties. You make a covenant with the public when you stand up and say "I will be an example for everyone on the spectrum, I want to help our people."
Just because it is to draining to try and fail, is no reason to surrender. Just because you can get away with acting like a spoiled child and have people defend you for doing so does not mean that you should. Just because life is a struggle doesn't mean you should give up.
We are all capable of greatness in our own way, but that greatness should not come at the cost of our feeling we do not have to make an effort on any of our deficits because we excel at one thing. Greatness comes from the ashes of despair and the agony of defeat. It comes from overcoming your difficulties not simply playing to your strengths.
I want all of us to be truly great. I want all of us to have lives worth living and worth emulating. I believe everyone is capable of that, and I become infuriated when I see and hear those of us on the spectrum who make the choice to spit in the face of the opportunity for greatness that being on the spectrum truly is.
Autism Advocate, philanthropist, business owner, and apparently an occasional bully