It's not very often I do a double post in a day, but I got so moved by these feelings I just had to...
I'm at Boston-Logan airport right now awaiting my flights that will take me home. On the way to the airport this morning we stopped at a gas station and I went in to get a drink and as I walked in the two clerks, perhaps a manager and a employee in training, were talking. I thought nothing about these words as they were lost in the sounds of life as well as my hyper-focus on getting my drink and leaving. But then I had an odd feeling; this feeling was of such strength that I quite literally froze in my tracks and I began to listen to what the workers were saying.
I felt as if I was a ghost in the environment because neither knew I was there or that I was listening. The topic they were talking about was regarding inter-personal relations with other employees and what the new employee could expect. I was, at that point in time, a witness to each of these person's stories. Now who were these people? I don't know and will never know as I was just seeing a snippet of their lives. That got me thinking about the autism spectrum and society.
So often society, and when I say society I mean those uninformed or unaffiliated with the autism spectrum, will only see a snippet of life on the spectrum much like I had seen at the gas station. What I saw I could not piece anything together. What those persons' dreams, hopes, challenges, and daily life are like.
Behind each person, spectrm or not, is a story; a story deep and rich with triumphs and defeats. Families who have a person on the autism spectrum are just the same. However, if society as a whole only sees those moments in public where, perhaps, there could be a behavior or maybe even a passing news story the perception of autism can be quite different.
It is a common occurrence for me to hear from parents that they so often get told that they are, "spoling their children" from friends, extended family, or even strangers. This is nothing short of a tragedy because I can almost guarntee tat this is due to those others only seeing part of the story. If one doesn't know the broader picture with a clearer lens then I truly want to know how anyone can pass judgment.
The autism spectrum is not something that pops up and then goes away for families. When society and autism cross paths, for those that are a part of the uninformed society, they are only seeing it at that point in time with no ability to fathom that what they are witnessing is something that is more than that point in time. What they could be seeing could be the norm for that family.
I find it odd I became overwhelmed with these emotions just by being an invisible observer in those worker's story, but even now as I write this I am almost trembling with this deep, profound conviction that society needs to know the broader picture.
For those workers today I was nothing more than a sale that they soon forgot as soon as I left the store. I heard their story and they know nothing of mine. For families that have a person on the spectrum often times those interactions aren't like mine at the gas station. For those families that have told me that they have been called "bad parents" and the like, those words aren't soon forgotten. It's a shame because from from those that made those comments, out of their ignorance, they probably feel as if their words are justified with no idea of the full story. Not that I needed anymore fuel to my passion this has added some because before that experience at the gas station this morning I never thought about the stories of other people. After being a witness to that exchange I realized that when a person only knows 1/10th of the story the context means nothing and this is where ignoranant comments thrive. Sitting here at gate A16 I can feel the buring desire to add that context in any way I can grow and I can feel my voice strengthening. I've always said that I'm in a race to "raise the awareness and understanding of the spectrum" and I feel as if I found a new gear as these minor tragedies of misunderstanding need not happen.