Thursday, June 14, 2012

Saddened at Ignorance

Well, I was all primed to celebrate my drive to Hagerstown and tell you that on my drive I came up with a plot line for a fiction book that I might actually start to write tonight. I also was going to write that tomorrow is the 3 year anniversary of my first work at TouchPoint when I went through their parent training course. However, I found something that disgusted me.

First, the good news. I don't know if you saw this on any of the news outlets, but the New York Mets are are considering a quiet section to cater to the autism crowd. Is it a done deal? No, but they are testing the waters. This may have been spawned by the quiet section at the NASCAR FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover a couple weeks ago. So yes, this is good, but want to know what troubles me? And when I tell you read at your own risk, the comments on the story I have linked to.

I read just a few and my anger pegged. What do people think the autism spectrum is? One person said, "People with autism need schedules so they should never leave the house." Another person said, "I worked with people on the spectrum for years and every person with autism hates baseball, hates sports, and the definition of autism is having no interests!" WHAT?!

To be honest I don't know why any website allows unmoderated comments, well, at least news outlets because I've never read one positive comment. However, many people I know ONLY read websites from the comments and if this is the case then the comments on that story are giving the autism spectrum a poorly painted picture.

I personally applaud the Mets for testing these waters and to every person that left a negative comment, or said that people with autism, "can't have interests" I would just like to say I have come across many people on the spectrum that their sole interest is baseball. I mean, a lot of us on the spectrum loves stats and what better sport is there than baseball for stats. There's so many stats that I can't believe there isn't one for how many times a batter blinks in the batter's box. For those people though that love baseball an environment like the one proposed would be awesome as well as for their families who would be in a section of people that understands if a behavior should arise.

Another comment I read said, "Why should they get any special treatment?" Sadly, this is a mindset I have seen a lot and it's this crowd that needs to get the picture the most. A person, when ignorant about autism, can cause a great deal of long term harm if they have an interaction with a person on the spectrum and do all the wrong things because they think, "That a person with autism should simply "deal with it" as one comment said. And the comment I read the most of was, "Children like that should just stay home." Is that the mentality? If someone is different they should just be kept from the world?

As the title of this blog suggests, I am simply saddened. What will it take? What can we do? And above all us I am asking, "Why are people so mean?" Truly, why are they? An organization is just seeing if something like this would even work and they are called all sorts of names and the autism spectrum gets dragged through the mud, But for what reason?

This right here is why the mission is greater than ever. I don't usually comment on current event/news from other sites but I'm sickened to the core and if you read some of those comments I hope you are too. I was just getting to a point that I thought we were headed towards a society that was tolerable of one's differences and would be there to lend a helping hand, but if those comments are any sign we are still a long way from that destination.


  1. As always, a fantastic blog. I stayed away from the comments section quite intentionally, because I was pretty sure what I would find. You are leading the way to combat that ignorance. As a parent of a boy on the spectrum (who I love very much) I just want to say thank you, Aaron. Thank you on his behalf, and on behalf of parents of autistic kids everywhere who have to deal with this kind of ignorance routinely. You definitely have your work cut out for your you! But it is a worthwhile endeavor.

  2. This is very sad to me as well. I ask the same question-Why are people so mean? I hope that as we educate people on the many faces of the Autism spectrum, we begin to see people stand up for everyone's rights and begin to help everyone live in world that they get to participate in as well. Don't give up! We need you!

  3. I agree with you 100%..... its sad that the people in this world just cannot accept people for who they are. Everyone has something to offer this world. When my son who has Aspergers asked me "Is there something wrong with me?" Because of the ignorance of people in the world. My answer to him was "Nothing is wrong with you their the ones who have the problem, you make the world more interesting for everyone you meet."

  4. I find your blog very interesting and I have downloaded your book to my Kindle. My son has Asperger's, and I agree that these comments are truly insensitive.

    When my son was younger, he did exhibit a lot of "typical" behaviors. He was extremely sensitive to anything extreme. So his diet initially consisted of lots of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, breads, etc...petty much anything considered bland or mild. But now he is 16 and loves putting hot sauce or jalapenos on foods. Just the other day, he ate something that was supposed to be spicy and he complained that it "wasn't hot enough". I couldn't believe those words were coming from my son!

    He used to also be able to only tolerate very quiet music (he really loved Josh Grobin's "You Raise Me Up"). But now he's a huge Classic Rock fan and likes to dance at parties.

    So, long story short, to say that "all autistic people" do "this" or "that", or that they can never change is simply not true. My son has come such a long way from the child who did not speak till he was almost 4. And even then, he quoted lines from movies and songs. Interestingly, when he started speaking, he didn't have any problems with the usual "baby talk" that kids usually have. He enunciated perfectly. I came to the conclusion that he simply did not want to speak until he could do it right. He is quite the perfectionist and loves order. He is thinking about being a Librarian or Librarian Assistant as a career choice. He loves books and he loves for things to be put back where they belong.

    My son amazes everyday with what he has learned and continues to learn. Many of the behaviors that he once had are greatly diminished. He used to sit and rock all the time, but now only does it when he's nervous.

    I want to now help him deal with angry spells. We are still working on that, but I am confident that with the right tools, he will learn to manage that as well.

    I have learned that my son will be able to do pretty much what everyone else can do, he will just take a little longer to do it.

  5. I'm sure I'm just echoing what other people have said, but as the parent of a 13-year-old with mild Autism, I appreciate the efforts that some people go to understanding and working with this condition.

    I have role-played, rehearsed, explained, prepared, tried to think the way she thinks and on and on and on, and still we experience daily struggles. I often joke that I download the "Allie-to-English" dictionary daily so I know how to explain things to her but I'm frequently appalled at how little some people seem to comprehend.

    Her being Autistic is not a crutch or an excuse to let her misbehave. Instead, it is as much a part of her as her eye color. As I write this, she is in the shower and has been talking to herself almost nonstop. A typical event for her, but if she were at a sleepover or were changing clothes in her Jr. High P.E. class and started talking to herself, she would likely be considered strange. This is part of her life and we deal with this, too in our own way, but it's heartening to see that there are some organizations and individuals who at least make an attempt to understand and assist with something that is quite clearly out of the control of the individual.

    And for the record, if I took HER to a quiet section of a ball field, it would be a welcome respite for us all!

  6. Aaron, I am a Special Needs Teacher and I have been reading your blog recently. I have also shared it with a friend who was diagnosed quite late. He seems very confused, upset and really does not know what to do. And I keep saying to him celebrate your strengths, not what you cannot do, or rather what other people say you cannot do. Our differences are what make us special.

    'People' will never comprehend, and people will always be mean about ANY differences they do not understand or fear, and they do worse than just say mean words. The human species, despite having the largest frontal lobe and ccapacity for reason, is the only species that sets out to kill its own in masses, for an idea, for a belief, and of course for territory and wealth.

    Can we ever change that before we completely destroy the earth all by ourselves? Can we work to understand why and slowly find our own self-respect and therefore respect for all others?

    Our being upset only adds to this negative energy field. How about through your blog, starting a small movement for a slow build up of positive energy? Be thankful for on little thing everyday. Make one person smile every day. Remember 'Pay It Forward'?

    Here's my little step - Thank you Aaron, for being so brave and getting out there and saying what you feel. For making this blog available to others to share, explore and get to know more about all our minds. : )

    1. Maybe this will help for your friend. Having been diagnosed myself, I have learned how to not only accept your diagnosis, but actually celebrate it. Celebrate it? Yes, celebrate. I'm not talking about celebrating having Autism. I'm talking about celebrating having been diagnosed with it.
      When someone gets really upset after having gotten the diagnosis, I always tell them the same thing I told myself: Autism isn't something you've just gotten, it's something you're born with. You've managed up to now and maybe had some struggles, but you also have some great qualities. Haven gotten the diagnosis, didn't change you at all.
      The only thing that has changed is that now you know what is going on and you can start working on the things that weren't going so great and you can develop your strengths even more.
      So actually, a diagnosis is great. A diagnosis provides a way of understanding yourself and having others understand you, making you able to deal with it.
      As Aaron always puts it beautifully: Understanding is the foundation for hope.

  7. D:< Who does that?
    This song will explain it all.

  8. I totally agree with you Aaron. I am a primary school teacher from Scotland and my son, of 11 years, has autism.

    I completely agree that we need to raise awareness. My friend/colleague and I undertook small research project where we went into school to raise the children's awareness of the autism spectrum (and of dyslexia). We worked with different sets of children in different workshops then the children presented their learning to the rest of the school. Through drama (some scenarios directly from my son's life), games, stories, discussion and other activities, we tried to put the children in the shoes of someone with autism/aspergers (and dyslexia) to help them understand what it might be like for them in the classroom or playground or lunch hall etc. But also, tell them about the positive side to autism (and dyslexia).

    The feedback we received was fantastic and our reserach has been published on the General Teaching Council Scotland's website.

    and there is also a podcast.

    We hope to roll this out to other schools and have secured a meeting with the Scottish Government to discuss it further.

    Good luck with your blog - hopefuly we can all keep raising awareness:-)

  9. Hi
    I teach people at University who want to work in this area and our courses are always very well booked out and very well evaluated. There are many people out there who are supportive. Listen to them, not the ones who are not nice.

    There are bullies in all walks of life.

    Ironically, if you are bullied, it means the bully is intimidated by you which means you are accepted as 'normal' or maybe better than...., We have to learn to laugh the bully in the face. I would love to see quite areas if that means everyone can enjoy sports etc.

  10. She is right...we will never be completely free of bullies. If you want to learn even more shocking behavior once considered "accepted" by mainstream, research the "history" of autism and how it has been dealt with over the past fifty years. I was apalled, but things that seem barbaric now were still considered standard practice, not just for ASD but many other conditions not so long ago. Having a designated "quiet zone" at public events is as reasonable as our "standard" of making sure all buildings are handicapped accessible....unfortunately, even that took forever to be considered an appropriate and equitable practice for our society.

  11. I just found this blog and I look forward to reading your perspective. My 7 year old son has Asperger's and is PASSIONATE about baseball, he's going pro (according to him). People never seem to amaze me, by their ignorance. I just hope that the more we speak and educate, the more they understand. Take care.

  12. I'm passionate about animals, particularly praying mantises, snakes, and bearded dragons. Without autism, I wouldn't have cared so much about animals and donated a particularly large sum of money to the NSPCA and helped SO MANY animals crying out for compassion. I would have never wanted a bearded dragon. I would have never figured out animals' language. I would have never held a snake, petted a bearded dragon, raised praying mantises from hatching, fed fish, made dog friends, and watched animal-related shows like "Too Cute," "My Cat from You-Know-Where," "It's Me or the Dog," or "Call of the Wildman." No matter if it's a Maltese or a Mali Uromastyx, I will love your pets and welcome them into my circle of friends, man or beast.

  13. I agree that the ignorance piece is harmful. That is why parents have to advocate for their young children with autism. That's why teenagers should start knowing how to advocate for themselves. That is why professionals also have to do their part, too.

    Even with all these efforts, however, each individual with autism (particularly those who learned about their diagnosis) are ambassadors of other individuals with autism, too! The best way is to show the world that they are capable not only as productive members of society, but also working hard to be competent in social skills... to a point that these hurtful comments will slowly disappear. After all, to people who are ignorant about autism, any maladaptive behavior will just add on to the stigma.