Autism is a psychological ailment covering various debilitating diseases. It is characterized by symptoms like social anxiety, repetitive behaviors, speech impairment, etc. This is how the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) defines Autism.
While this definition may seem all-encompassing with all the right jargon, it fails to catch the emotions behind a largely understood issue: Autism. The failure to gauge the feelings of the next person and the inability to express yours is not a foreign phenomenon for humans. But while so-called normal people mask this failure with a fake smile or by crying in the security of their favorite blanket, patients of Autism lack this luxury.
Autism comes more often than not with Cognitive Disinhibition, which means whatever is on their mind is on their lips. They don’t have a social filter, and hence they don’t hide their apparent happiness, disgust, and anger from people around them. It can be as small an issue as the neon-colored hair streaks you got the previous day or as big as a failure in performing fundamental human-social functions like shaking someone’s hand. If you make their toast just the way they like it, they will jump up and down and let you know in a most unsubtle way that they are happy with what you’ve done for them. On the other hand, if you put their pencil on the wrong table you might receive a barrage of unwarranted insults.
These ecstatic behaviors of Autistic people might seem unacceptable, antisocial, and unmanageable by the quote-unquote normal people, but for the patients of Autism, it is their reality. Being a patient of Clinical Depression and Anxiety Disorder, I may understand their plight a little better than others but I am not ashamed to say that there are many things about Autism that I also can never experience. So it’s not wrong to say that nobody can understand what truly goes inside the mind of an Autistic person.
This socially anxious existence, however, comes with a boon of its own. Patients suffering from many different conditions coming under the Autism spectrum while struggling to express their emotions are highly intelligent and possess unparalleled intellectual potential. The potential to conjure theories and poems and stories nobody else can fathom, and the ability to identify patterns where everybody else might see white noise. These possibilities paired with their tunnel vision when it comes to the subject of their interest means that every Autistic person has the possibility of becoming the next Einstein or Marie Curie. Infact Einstein is said to have been suffering from a form of Autism. No surprises there, I guess.
The energy and the computing power of the brain, that is used by non-autistic people to understand, handle and manage social interactions with other human beings, is not used in the same way in autistic people because of an inherent malfunction of the brain. Whatever may be the underlying reason, that same energy or potential of the brain is available to Autistic people to utilize in other endeavors like excelling in fields they are passionate about. Contrary to the popular belief of this extrovert world, there are other things you can use your brain for other than interacting compulsorily and sometimes needlessly with other human beings.
I am not here to say that with negative there always comes something positive. I am here to say that while this world stubbornly refuses to believe that there is a whole another possibility lying outside our belief system governing what constitutes as normal and what doesn’t, there are indeed concepts that we are yet to make sense of. Autism is one of them.
The world of Autism is a strange one. While a person with Autism might not be able to interact with people around them, what they achieve is limited only by their imagination, something they have no dearth of. But even if there was no positive in this scenario -which there is-, it does mean that these people don’t deserve the kind of reaction they get from other people. I don’t need to prove Autistic patients are not mad because there is nothing to prove there; they are normal as any of us. Infact they are superior to us. Still, we offer them nothing but contempt, ridicule, and shame just because we can’t understand what they are going through. Infact they should be the ones blaming us because inspite of having the so-called social skills we boast of, we fail to understand what living with a psychological condition like Autism means and how difficult it can be if your fellow humans don’t understand you. We fail to understand what they ultimately need: love and understanding.
So the next time you make fun of a person with Autism for not being able to express the emotions he has been carrying inside all life or ridicule a heavily introverted person for lacking social skills, do me a favor and look inside you. Look deep inside you and ask yourself. How would you have felt if you were in his/her place? You will get your answer and perhaps your empathy in the same place you have buried your conscience.
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