REFLECTIONS ON THE MONTH.
As the clock strikes twelve tonight, the month of April comes to an end. With it, comes an end to Autism Awareness Month.
Tonight, I was blocked by a man with an autistic son, and I say, “Okay, sometimes friendships aren’t meant to last as you see that you don’t have common values.” The reason for our major disagreement was, apart from a social issue, he claims that his son has conquered autism and has sent him to a practice that is roundly despised by autistic people, ABA.
This man believes, and I disagree with him, that ABA made his son come out of his autism. I tried to explain to him that Albert Einstein didn’t walk fully until he was three and he didn’t talk properly until he was five. Once I started to talk, I talked (part of it I credit my family with, because when I was little, my paternal grandmother tried talking to me in baby talk, and I looked at her and my mother said, “No, we don’t talk to him in baby talk.”) but I had delayed motor skills. I tried to explain to him that the autism spectrum is not linear, and that you can’t force a person with something. It’s like when a child loses their baby teeth, you can’t pull a tooth without sedation and dental work until the tooth is ready to fall out. I remember, when I was nine, I had a loose tooth that was hurting me, and it was a Wednesday night and my mother got some string and pulled on it and it came out and she said, “No wonder that tooth was hurting him, it has a big spike on it.” The thing was, it was loose enough and ready to come out. So, sometimes, an autistic child talks when they’re ready to talk, not because someone says they want them to. This man also described how his son was given food rewards if he did well at a session, and I thought, “Oh, my God! I’ve seen that being done in ABA sessions!”
I also tried to explain to this man that musicians such as David Byrne and Gary Numan have said that their autism helps them make good music. Many autistic people are talented in areas such as music, art, science and the like, and this man’s son said that he needed help to come out of himself! I thought, “My God! This sounds like a rehearsed answer!”
Now, I know that not every autistic person has a superpower, and I know that not every autistic person is a good person, but many autistic people use their strengths and talents for good. If we take Einstein, as an example, he knew the dangers of Otto Hahn’s discovery that U-235 atoms could be split and then released tremendous energy if harnessed into a bomb. He also opposed the use of the atomic bomb on human beings. Einstein was not a bad man.
This man then told me that I didn’t know what ABA was. Well, sorry, but I’m autistic and being forced to conform to certain standards, such as playing cricket with your brother in 36 degree heat when you’d rather be inside reading a book in front of the fan, is not good! And being told that if someone asks you if you like football, that you should say you do when you don’t is not right. Or to watch football so you have something to talk about! Or, not respond to vicious bullying!
If I could have had all my schooldays how I needed them, lunchtime would have been 15–20 minutes of eating my food in silence and alone, going to the library and then reorganizing the encyclopedias was my idea of calming. The latter helped me to be ready for the afternoon session.
I am glad, however, that April is nearly over for another year.