My New Interest

I know TedTalks isn’t a new concept. It covers many different genres of life and beyond. But today I want to focus on my personal TedTalks interest: Autism. Now you might think it’d be repetitive and boring listening to people talk about the same thing over and over and over again, almost on a loop. Believe you me…nothing could be further from the truth.

Actually, showing an intense interest or focus on one thing, while some may consider it an obsession, is a sign of Autism. So maybe my binge-watching TedTalks on Autism is a symptom of my Autism manifesting itself. But obsession or symptom, it doesn’t matter. I am interested in hearing different sides of people and their experiences and theories on Autism. Every single video I watched is different. Like individuals on the Spectrum, or people in general, no two videos are alike. Every person in every video I watched, whether it be a therapist, doctor, caregiver, or Autistic individual themselves, has a different take on this topic.

The video I am watching now (link below) says that Autism is almost an assumption to the untrained eye. Everyone has their own opinions or assumptions about Autism and how it impacts people. Some are legit, some are wtf opinions. And that’s fine. I am not here to tell you what or how to think.

In the attached video, Jac den Houting speaks of the “Neurodiversity Paradigm”. Ok…so what is that? Well, according to den Houting, “There are no right or wrong brains. All forms of neurological development are equally valid and equally valuable. No matter what kind of brain you’ve got all people are entitled to full and equal human rights and to be treated with dignity and respect.” She also says that Autism, in its simplest form, is “A different way of thinking”. She goes on to say she is disabled. But not by her Autism, but by her environment. “This is another paradigm shift. The way we are used to thinking about disability is based on the model called the Medical Model of Disability.”

The Medical Model Disability says that a disability is an individual problem. den Houting’s example is her issue with malls. “They’re loud, they’re brightly lit, they’re unpredictable.” So naturally, the Model would say she struggles with this due to her Autism, or “Disability”. However den Houting explains the “Social Model of Disability”. This is when a person’s environment doesn’t necessarily cater to the person or their characteristics.

She makes an interesting point. She says instead of “Carrying around my disability title like luggage, we use it as a verb. Disability is something that is being done to me. I am actively being disabled by the environment around me.” Her example is the mall. “They don’t cater to my needs.”

This got me thinking. IF—and that’s a pretty big “if”—establishments opened that cater to the needs of people with ASD, would it change perceptions of Autism? Quiet malls, sensory-friendly movie theaters, even a hospital staff specially trained on how to interact with us…it sounds great right? Well, in a perfect world… No two people are alike. So what works for me will NOT work for the next guy or girl in line with Autism. I enjoy going to concerts. Can you imagine someone who is severely “impacted” (ie extreme noise sensitivities to the point of a crisis or meltdown) going to a loud show? Or even 4th of July fireworks? Now we have an entirely different situation or scenario. Again, that scenario of a sensory-friendly perfect world, is a fantasy. It sounds great and like a good idea, but trust me…it’s not.

You can try to cater to Autism, but for, I’d say half, the people you attempt to cater to will resent you or reject it altogether. All our brains are different. So just think about the previous situation of a utopia for Autism. Does it seem like such a good idea now? Just think about it.

So in conclusion, I know I went off on a little bit of a tangent, but I feel strongly about this. I love hearing different sides to this Autism story. What is yours? Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading!

-Tom

Author: AuTom Spectrum Blog

I have Autism and am a self-advocate and public speaker. On the side I do stand-up comedy. I live in Baltimore County and have an AMAZING girlfriend

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