Autism Acceptance can look like this
At an amusement park, I wait in line with my 9-year-old client for a favorite ride. He flaps excitedly, makes little noises to himself. There’s a girl just ahead of us in line, about his age, with her mother. The girl looks at us with apparent curiosity, but not judgement or scorn or fear like some kids do. After a quick whispered exchange with her Mom, she turns to me.
“Is he Deaf?” she asks politely. I suspect she knows someone who is. I smile at her.
“Actually, no. He’s autistic. He can hear just fine, but he can’t speak.”
“Oh.” A bit of surprise there. She still looks intrigued. I look for traces of pity in her face and don’t see them. Good. I offer his name, and the Mom introduces the girl.
“Everyone’s got something special about them, right?” Mom adds, turning back to her daughter. She’s pretty relaxed about the whole thing too. The “everyone is special” line is a bit twee for my taste, but I’ve found that it works really well as an explanation for kids, and it’s so much better than some of the things I’ve heard. So I smile at Mom, too.
And I smile at my client. “It definitely makes him a very interesting person, and I really like that. He looks at things differently from most people, and helps me see things differently too sometimes.”
“That’s wonderful,” says the Mom. Then, to her daughter, “We need people who think differently. The world would be a pretty boring place if we were all completely normal, wouldn’t it?” The girl nods, and so do I.
The line moves forward, and we board the ride.
I don’t know if my client was listening to our conversation, or what he thought of it. But I’d be happy if most of what he overhears people say about him is along these lines. It’s little. It’s simple. They smiled, took what I said at face value, and didn’t condemn it in any way. That may be little, and simple, but it’s also priceless. Why can’t more “normal” people be like that?