Today, when I was walking on campus, I suddenly started to hear someone singly...and not well. My first thought was "Are you kidding me?" When I looked up to see who it was, it only took a moment to realize he probably had Aspergers.
If someone like me is completely aware of Autism and still had negative thoughts, can you imagine what others were thinking? No one said anything, no one made fun of him... but I'm sure most people were thinking what I was before I realized. The difference is, once I saw him, I knew something was going on. Did he look different? No. Did he have a big Autism sticker on his head? No. So, just because I'm used to what its like and can see it in mannerisms and other things, that doesn't mean other people can.
Most people probably had no idea he had Aspergers. Most people were probably disgusted or embarrassed for him. Why? It's out of the ordinary - it's not what "socially acceptable" to sing along to your iPod loudly in the middle of a public place. That's the problem - no one understands what Autism is, or other disabilities. They expect things from everyone around them and anyone who doesn't abide by this social rules, is weird.
This guy could love singing. He could have been celebrating a good test grade. This could just be a way for him to recollect himself and decrease stress. We don't know! We all do things differently. Who are we to judge? And even if we don't judge, this is why we need awareness. For people to be able to hear this kind of singing, to look up, and realize. Not so much that it's okay for him to sing out loud and be out of the ordinary because he has a disability, but because everyone has a right to do so.
What's sad is that people are so unaware of Autism, they don't understand it, so things like this are "wrong" because of our social norms. He could've been made fun of - luckily he wasn't, but no one should sing their heart out and be scared to because they may get picked on. If everyone just had a little understanding, maybe we would be less likely to hurt others, or expect things from strangers that we consider "normal." There is no normal.
Autism from a sibling's point of view...
My name is Paige and I am 24 years old. I graduated from Towson University with a Psychology Bachelors Degree. I am now working towards my Master's in Education of Autism and other Pervasive Disorders at Johns Hopkins. I am also a Behavior Data Specialist at the Kennedy Krieger Institute Neurobehavioral Inpatient Unit. My younger brother, Sammy, is 19 and has Autism. He is completely non-verbal, unaware of safety, is not toilet trained, cannot get himself dressed, and has difficulty with everyday activities that we all take advantage of. He works harder every single day of his life than anyone I know and he always does it with a smile on his face. He is my true hero and inspiration and because of him, I have dedicated my life to advocating and creating opportunities for individuals with Autism. I hope that I can make him proud and this blog is just a small part of the awareness I hope I can create about Autism and support other siblings impacted by Autism. I love you Sammy - thank you for everything.