I wish my classmates knew I had autism
Posted on April 15th, 2015 by Beth
And now for part two of Monday’s post about medical privacy written by guest blogger Aaron Likens. Aaron is the Autism Ambassador for Easter Seals Midwest and raises awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorders by giving presentations to police, students, parents and teachers. This post seemed especially appropriate for April, which is Autism Awareness Month.
The power of awareness
by Aaron Likens
One thing I love about my job is the countless opportunities I’ve had to speak to entire student bodies about the autism spectrum. Oh, I wish you could hear the amazing questions I’ve come across from all grade levels. When someone stands up and proclaims, “Hi, I don’t really have a question but I have a comment and I just want to let everyone know that I have Asperger’s, too,” well, it sends chills each time I hear that. That student in that moment felt empowered to speak up about this mysterious thing, and now something that was seemingly unknown to others beforehand — all the quirks, the oddities, and all that goes with being on the spectrum — might now make sense to others. That’s the power of awareness.
My motto throughout my speaking career has been “understanding is the foundation for hope.” Without the understanding, well, a classroom can become resentful and maybe even spiteful at the different way students on the spectrum act, and the different ways they might be treated by teachers and staff. I don’t feel right telling people on the autism spectrum whether to disclose that information to others. I know some individuals with Asperger’s that will never, no matter the situation, open up and tell a soul about their diagnosis and they are entitled to that. At the same time another individual may want that knowledge to be out there because maybe they won’t be called “weird” or “odd” because there may be a better understanding of who they are.
I know I wish my classmates had known about my diagnosis (I didn’t know myself until I got diagnosed at the age of 20) because maybe I wouldn’t have been such an outcast like I was. I feel we are progressing towards better understanding of neural diversity and all the possible conditions, syndromes, and any other words that could fit that. The ultimate destination is acceptance, but without awareness there can be no understanding, and without understanding I’m afraid the cycle of confusion and frustration will just continue.
Learn more about autism spectrum disorder on easterseals.com.