Stop talking; let autism speak

Stop talking; let autism speak

The student you sit next to in math class is always asking questions. Sometimes he doesn’t really understand the material, but he tries his best. Yesterday, he was caught off guard and gave a very wrong answer to a seemingly easy problem. Honestly, that problem was so easy. He must be autistic or something.


Unless you have the privilege of tuning out the ignorance of today’s society, you’ve probably heard somebody talk about autism like it’s a joke. This perception of autism is becoming increasingly more common, and it needs to be corrected. The use of the word “autistic” has come to replace the R-word in some cases. First of all, the words do not mean the same thing. Secondly, neither of them should be used interchangeably with “unintelligent.”


According to the Autism Society of Southeast Wisconsin, autism is defined as a lifelong neurological disorder that affects how a person perceives the world, interacts with other people, and communicates. The world is becoming increasingly more populated by autistic individuals. The Autism Speaks facts page states that autism is the fastest-growing developmental disorder in the United States. Despite its undeniable relevance, many people still do not know exactly what autism is or how to interact with autistic individuals.


This is precisely why autism is often looked over, along with multiple other less-known disorders or disabilities. Society needs to wake up and breath in a big lungful of diversity, because the world is not going to stop changing simply because today’s fluffy, sugarcoating society doesn’t want it to. Is there any reason that the estimated 3.5 million individuals in the United States living with autism should be swept under the rug? If we can promote a higher level of awareness in our community, we may be able to excite people’s compassion and help them understand autism.


NBW’s special education program is doing an absolutely fantastic job of integrating their unique students into regular classes, but why are people still so ignorant? Hurtful words, actions, and opinions that are commonly expressed in the media lead me to believe that people don’t take the time to think for themselves.


Sometimes when conversing I have to sit down and ask myself, what must be going on in some people’s heads for them to think that was an okay thing to say? That’s right; that comment was considered socially acceptable. Wait, that was considered socially acceptable? Welcome to America, the Land of the Free, with Liberty and Justice for all, even though it costs more to educate, care for, and medically treat individuals with certain disorders or disabilities, including autism. The scariest part is that some people still aren’t aware of the prevalence of autism.


I’m not saying that people should walk around with a sign around their neck proclaiming their support for autism. To put it simply, people should be more aware of diverse individuals in today’s society, which will not wait for them to adjust before changing yet again. Because the tone of our society is rapidly shifting, we don’t have any time to waste. Campaigns like Autism Speaks and the Autism Society exist, and they’ve been monumental in the fight to get autism’s name known. If we could see just half of the attention and support that was received in the R-Word Campaign, it could completely alter the way students and staff members at NBW understand autism. Understanding autism is the first step to eliminating the more severe misconception that autism is a joke.


It may not be as common as other offensive statements, but I have heard the word “autistic” used to describe something ridiculous. I’ve often seen a photo of someone doing something outrageous that’s lacking common sense, and it may elicit a laugh. However, when one of these photos is posted online with the Autism Speaks logo smacked down below it, it’s not humorous. It is a complete mockery of everything we, as human beings, should stand for. People don’t stand on street corners and sit in at authoritative meetings in protest just because they can. People protest because they want to see change. Yes, the world may be changing, but not in the way it needs to.


To understand autism is to understand the meaning of life. Autism is complex and imperfect no matter which way you try to explain it, but that’s why it needs society’s attention. Autism Speaks shares that around 25 percent of individuals on the autism spectrum are nonverbal, but these nonverbal individuals are not voiceless. Their voice will be heard loud and clear if everyone stops talking and lets autism speak.