This is a story I've been meaning to tell for a very long time but with so many people doing something or other regarding spectrum issues I think I just felt...redundant. I've come to the realisation that my story isn't so important but my work is. The story just gives some background. I like background. It fills in the gaps and adds some colour.
I very quickly realised that the people I was working with were funny, intelligent and quirky in away that made them unique. In other words they were human. Nothing more or less. And deserving of the same opportunities as everyone else even if that meant having someone by their side while they did it. They made incredible progress! Hit some goals they never thought possible. But mostly, they taught me! They taught me so much about people that I have never looked at a human being the same way again.
I left Australia after doing this for a couple years and did a stint in an autistic school not far out of London. I was all revved up to do the great work I had been in Australia. Remember things were different 18 years ago!
The school must of had over 70 autistic kids of all levels. One child was considered violent and kept in a locked room downstairs, another would lie on the floor all day while workers stepped over him and the classrooms were a mix of high functioning to profoundly autistic which made the teachers task impossible. Classes of about 12 with one extra worker (me) but only sometimes. Learning of zero for all but the high functioning and they were bored and restless most of the time. They were all bored and restless.
My heart broke and I walked away thinking if this is the future for our spectrum kids I want nothing to do with it.
These polar experiences have stuck with me. And now I find myself working in natural health and seeing autistic kids in a different capacity. Things are so different now! So many more are being diagnosed. More than just the far end of the spectrum with the stereotypical rocking. We're truly seeing a spectrum! And the colours are bright!
Here's my take. Autism is not something to be fixed. Autism is a gift. Cliched I know and for the parents it can feel like anything but a gift. And....what a messed up gift! There is clarity and directness. Autistic people hold us at our word pushing our communication to be clear as crystal. The way they see the world and its problems is totally out of the box. We need to take their ideas and thoughts on board!
And then there is the anxiety, sensory difficulties, food issues, the difficulty with communication, the difficulty of being in a world set up for the neuro-typical when you are neuro-divergent.
Divergent. It is such a great word. A word always makes me think of a line in a Robert Frost poem ' I took the road less travelled by'. That's divergent to me. I can help clear the road, make the trip easier but the road is the same.
And that's how I truly feel about ASD. It's just the road less travelled.
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