Last week, I went with my family to visit a potential school for my son, along with another family with 6 kids aged 7 to 15. The school principal gathered us for a briefing about the school programs. He was speaking in a soft voice and a neutral tone and we were all quietly listening to his explanations. Four minutes in, D uttered a sound which to me sounded like a piano note.

 

The sound was brief but piercing and everyone in the room except my husband and I turned to look in the direction of my son, whose head was resting on his arm outstretched on the meeting table, unaware of the gaze upon him and music notes in his mind. My husband and I were focused on the principal’s speech undisturbed by our son’s sound as it was part of our daily lives. Suddenly, we saw a shift in demeanors around us, kids changing seats to stay away from D. Obviously, it’s an odd and unusual situation for them, although I remember feeling comfortable and knowing that our son is an exceptional kid, much smarter than all of the people there combined, including my husband and myself, much smarter for the typical world. Since this is beyond the understanding of the typical world, such kids are labeled as suffering from some kind of disability.

 

I usually read and hear about adapting to the world. And this is what we, as members of the autism community do. The other day, my friend’s son got selected in his school by a modeling agency. Despite his mum repeated explanation about her son’s autism the agency went ahead with the screening process only to fail him because he could not answer one abstract question. He was told to step down from the selection. However, the typical world is much bigger with more opportunities. We go to the world, so the world to meet us halfway.

I have been to different countries, continents, cultures with my son. Yet, autism is the same everywhere. The fear of acceptance, the apprehension of finding educators that can meet us midway or work together and the expectations are all the same.

 

Autism has a wide spectrum. You may have kids or teens with special interests that the typical world would call “obsessions”, or kids with one specific talent and nothing else, and who can’t communicate in any other way; or even yet, kids with a particular skills set – my son is one such kid, calendar smart, talented singer and who doesn’t see the world as abstractly as most of us do. Haben Girma, a lawyer, author, public speaker wrote once something that I deemed relevant to our situation; “It is very frustrating. I know what it’s like when disability professionals struggle to work with more than one disability at a time. You’ve been adapting and finding solutions for years. The least they can do is to try to be adaptive, too.”

 

What the world calls disability, I call it ability. I have yet to find a single soul to take my son’s calendar skills to the next level, because it’s so out of the ordinary and, as such, considered a disability. His singing talent comes from his exceptional hearing ability, he hears sounds before anyone else hears it, but it’s labeled disability because people think his mind is tricking him or that he’s having ‘sound hallucinations.’

‘You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it requires people to make the dream a reality’ – Walt Disney (1901-1966)

 

Many innovations and inventions are often the work of people with quirky behaviors and special interests and talents, largely viewed as obsessions and a cause for their marginalization in society.

 

Families, your child on the autism spectrum is unique, stay motivated to help to reach his/her fullest potential; the world will come to you.