Imperfectly perfect

Image of Temple Grandin from the cover of her latest book, 'The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across The Spectrum'Recently, Temple Grandin was on Katie Couric’s show Katie talking about autism. She provided a lot of fascinating and cheerful stories about what it’s like to have it and what she’s done to adjust. It was incredibly fascinating and I loved her no-nonsense approach to children with autism, specifically about labeling and achievements. Many parents, in her experience, seemed to forget that Jimmy wasn’t just on the autism spectrum … he was also brilliant at math. Suddenly Jimmy wasn’t Jimmy, he was Jimmy With Autism, and there were no more celebrations for his achievements.

The reminder of labels struck a chord with me. You see, I’m not a stranger to autism. I’ve always grown up with autism and disabilities being close, if unspoken, companions in my own life. My father has it, my youngest sister has it. I have two learning disabilities myself. And for the longest time, my family and I defined ourselves by our challenges rather than by our achievements. We weren’t Mac and C. We were Auditory Processing/Dysnomia and Autism Spectrum.

But as I grew older, I began to realize I was more than just what “hindered” me. I had many gifts to make up for my different way of doing things and those layers of experiences and abilities meant I was more than what was “wrong” with me. I may be an awful public speaker, but I was a great writer with a brilliant imagination (as long as I had a thesaurus and time to gather my thoughts). I may have a hard time focusing on one person talking in a noisy crowd, but I was gifted at reading comprehension.

I was imperfectly perfect.

The thought blew me away.

Which is why when I watched Temple speak about autism and looking beyond the “can’ts” into the “cans,” I was ecstatic that someone else knew intimately the struggle of working extra hard to appear normal and shared my thoughts on how it should be. We celebrate achievements for people who fall mostly in the norm — why not celebrate what autism/disabled children are good at and celebrate a little more? Celebrating is good. Differences are good. Remembering we shouldn’t let a label decide who we are, and that we should decide who we are ourselves? Well, that’s just perfect.


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