I had a long car ride from Indianapolis to North Carolina yesterday and to pass the time I read up on the news. There was this one article autism and Asperger's Syndrome and I made the mistake of reading the comments. I think anyone knows that the comments area on anything news related is a hotbed of ignorance (not all the time) and on this I read comment after comment of pure ignorance and downright rudeness towards any and all on the autism spectrum. One comment read, "I'm so sick of hearing about autism and 1 in 88. It's all a fraud and just spoiled children." There were several more that were worse than that but as yesterday went on, and I flagged a race in Concord, NC, I became moved to write what I'm about to write which is an open letter to the ignorant...
I know you probably have a great time writing your comments on the internet. Perhaps you like just pushing buttons, or perhaps you truly believe what you write, but as a person on the autism spectrum I want to say your words hurt. No, your words don't just hurt as that doesn't put into scope just what your words means. Your words, as seemingly irrelevant as they are, are a complete slap in the face of everything that I am and is a ceiling to the potential I could reach and a complete mockery of the challenges I face.
Do you think it is a fraud? Honestly? I do my best at writing but I wish I could write in a way that would truly put you in my shoes. Can you imagine what it is like to hear everything and to be hyper-vigilant at all hours? Can you imagine what it is like to look at everyone else and wonder what normal feels like? To live life with a hint of envy carries with it a 50 pound sack of sadness on my shoulders. But you know what? Each day, somehow, I get up and I take on the world.
While I may, somehow, gather the courage to leave my front door and put myself on the line and risk social ridicule and social disasters, autism affects many more than just the person. When you were writing words did you, for just one second, think about the parents, brothers, sisters, and all extended family of those on the spectrum. What you so casually called a "fraud and a bunch of spoiled children" are living, breathing people that have no choice in who they are. We are what we are and by slapping us with your words you minimize who we are and the challenges we face.
A lot of us on the autism spectrum try in life and fail. This could be with friends, a job, or living independently, but we try. The moments we fail are a hazardous time because it is very easy for us to give up. Sure, oh ignorant one, you can call us weak, spoiled, or say we have a choice, but to us, should we fail one time, the end result will always be failure so we ask ourselves, "Why even try?" On top of that, when we read words like yours, we may just come to believe there is no hope because, with words as so bluntly put as yours, we are weak, defective, and a nuisance to the world.
I mentioned I wished I could write in a way that truly would let you, the ignorant, in on my life, feelings, and challenges. What is easy for others may be difficult for us. What comes naturally to you may not come so to us. So yes, I wish I could do one better actually; I wish I could let you in on my life for just one day. I wish you could experience a day in my life and the constant worry about my posture, my words, and my actions. I wish you could experience what it is like to fear each social encounter and the damages that may come from it. I wish you could experience what it is like to constantly think to the worst case scenario. I, above all else, wish you could experience the amount of negative self-talk my brain does because of all the other points I mentioned. It is a miracle I get through each day and I wish you could experience that. On second thought that might be too cruel because, through your ignorance, I see weakness and there are no words that can ever be written to give you a glimpse at the strength it takes to get through the day and the experience, for you the ignorant, would be beyond your comprehension. But hey, in your eyes it's just a myth, right? Just a bunch of spoiled children, right? I usually don't write in a condescending manner and I hope that autism ignorance becomes extinct, but the strength of us on the spectrum to tolerate our challenges, and of those by our parents to help guide us and support us when we need it is truly extraordinary. As I said, I don't think you'd last a day in my shoes so please, next time you feel the need to express your anger at hearing about "1 in 88" I hope you realize that us "ones in eighty-eight" have things a bit different and to deny us our right at that is to, in a way, extinguish part of our soul. If a person is okay with doing that then I have to be fully honest and say I'd hate for them to spend an hour in my world because truly, honestly, they would be no match for this "myth" known as the autism spectrum.