Are you autistic? Do you know someone who is autistic? Have you heard autism?
Because this is a subject that has only fairly recently come to the forefront of public and scientific discovery, I will tread carefully and avoid making sweeping generalizations about the public’s impressions of autism and, instead, refer only to my own.
I do not understand autism. This is because I am not autistic. I do, however, know someone very close to me who has been labeled with several “learning disabilities”. When I was younger, and please forgive me for this, I thought it was all fake. I thought it was a clever ploy to explain away someone who did not perform up to the standards set forth for them. Do a lot of people think that? I don’t know but based on my knowledge of my own brain, I couldn’t fathom a brain that worked any other way.
Eventually, I began trying to “teach” a person with a learning disability. How I discovered it is not fake:
1. I would teach something (Example: difference between action verb and linking verb)
2. I would ask student to repeat immediately after.
3. Student would repeat perfectly well.
4. I would be satisfied. I would teach something else.
5. I would ask student to repeat initial lesson (ie. difference between action verb and linking verb).
6. Student could not.
7. No matter! We all forget sometimes. I would start back at “1”. This went on and on and on.
And thus, I deduced that learning disabilities are real. Now, there are a lot of talented, patient, and highly intelligent people who are studying learning disabilities and coming up with strategies for learning and teaching that are conducive with the ways different peoples brains work. I am not one of those people but I commend them.
Autism is not the same as a learning disability. But it is a brain that works differently from what I would call a “normal brain”. Through my own deduction, I have decided that there is no such thing as a normal brain. God created us with the brain we were meant to have and it is our responsibility to use that brain to fulfill his unique purpose for each of us. Brain exist on some kind of spectrum and it is likely, though I am not sure, that each brain is completely unique shaped by nature and nurture (like a snowflake). But, if necessary, we could class our brains with different characteristics. I believe that I have some level of learning disability, for which I have worked with a doctor to take the perfect level of medication that some genius scientist, by the grace of God, had the brain capacity/ intelligence to develop in some lab somewhere.
It is truly a difficult thing to wrap our minds around how someone else’s brain works and I doubt if I (or anyone) has the capacity to ever fully do so. However, in our daily endeavors to spread kindness and compassion, it is helpful to try to understand how other people may view the world.
Reading “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” was a thought-provoking look at the way an autistic person’s brain works. It is written from the point of view of an autistic boy named Christopher Boone who, despite lacking several social traits that help us to function easily in society, is extraordinarily gifted. This book is hard to read at times and actually made me anxious and frustrated, which served to demonstrate to me the frightening reality that autistic people are faced with everyday.
Christopher’s commentary on the world is refreshing.I had flashes of thoughts that I’d had myself as a child before I was conditioned to accept things as they are (ie. that constellations are a load of crap when people say they look like certain things because it’s just a ton of dots and you can connect the dots any way that you like to make it look like anything you want).
I have recently struggled to understand how atheists can exist in the world without becoming utterly depressed and not wanting to function or caring to carry on. I am by no means saying that all atheists are autistic. Do not interpret this that way but, Christopher’s scientific approach to every facet of life and inability to wrap his head around things that are not explainable has widened my horizons a little bit on this point.
All in all, I suggest reading this book. It is a quick read (only 220 pages).