KRISTINA RUTH ’15
According to Paul Collins author of “Not Even Wrong: Adventures in Autism”, autism is much more than a disorder. As he put it, “a disability is usually defined in terms of what is missing…But autism…is as much about what is abundant as what is missing.” As with many disorders, children with autism are stereotyped as “being different” from early on. They often struggle in school because many other children don’t know enough about the disorder and simply ignore them or make fun of them for it. But, the truth of the matter is that autism is becoming more prevalent in our population as time has progressed. Autism Speaks states that one in every 88 children has autism. Instead of pretending that it doesn’t exist or treating individuals with autism like they are a different species, society as a whole needs to not only become more educated about the topic but also learn ways to include them, especially in the classroom. As Collins mentions, individuals with autism should be treated like everyone else. Their contributions to society are just as important as contributions from everyone else. Just because they have a disorder doesn’t mean that they are insignificant.
On Friday November 22, Taylor Higgins ’15 and I (Kristina Ruth ’15) hosted an autism awareness fundraiser. The two spent a lot of time researching and talking with local community members to hear various perspectives on the disorder. They looked into all the special dietary studies past researchers had conducted. They read local Hartford blogs about various families with autistic children. In addition, they spoke with Louise Balsmeyer ’14 who had interned with Autism Speaks about her opinion of how autism is viewed in today’s society and how it should change. When she spoke at the event, she made a great point in saying that rather than pretend that it doesn’t exist, we as a community need to incorporate their perspective into our own.
Autistic children are just as intelligent and talented as non-autistic children, they simply express themselves in a different way. Society gets so caught up in seeing things in a certain light that they often forget that there are other ways of seeing things. Balsmeyer also mentioned that the reason autistic children are often bullied in school is due to other childrens’ lack of knowledge about the disorder. When they do not know why one of their peers is acting differently from their other peers, some children tend to use bullying as a coping device. This can have damaging results for everyone in the long run. More autism cases are diagnosed every year and now is the time for people to become more engaged in the cause. Various Trinity students came out Friday to support autism awareness and donate to Autism Speaks. The hosts of the event hope that in the future years at Trinity, other students will continue to hold events to make the campus more aware of this disorder.
Speaking with different community members about this topic makes people look at autism in a whole different way. The hosts of the event had always been supportive of the cause but had never heard so many people’s perspectives on it before. The best part about this was seeing how positive and supportive parents in this community are. Their passion for their children is amazing and should inspire the rest of us to become just as engaged in the cause as they are. Instead of being so fixated in our own views we should try to look at things from their perspective. It’s time to speak up.