Monday, July 1, 2013

Is Autism a disability or a different ability?

I am not good at math.  In fact, I avoid math at all costs.  I use a tip calculator at dinner, and I ask my husband to add things up quickly for me.  I have very little use for math in my day to day am I disabled, special, or stupid?  My only label would be, "She's not so good at math."

Now imagine a man on the Autism Spectrum.  He isn't exactly good at socializing.  He avoids social situations at all costs.  He uses others such as a wife or relative to help him interpret unavoidable social situations.  He has very little use for socializing while conducting his duties as a mathematician. He is labeled as disabled, special, and slow.

I am perfectly capable of learning math.  In college I failed my first try at calculus, but the second go around I studied hard, did each problem slowly and followed each step exactly.  Sometimes I would still get a wrong answer, but I persisted and ended up erasing that F with a very deserved C+. Had I tried again, I'm sure I could have gotten even better at math and perhaps pulled off an A.  However, my degree in Psychology did not require any other math courses.  So I got rusty and poor at math again.  I was not interested in math, it did not come naturally, so I gave up on it.

Our man on the Autism Spectrum finds no challenge in mathematics.  He looks at a problem and instantly sees a solution.  He skips all the steps that I need to meticulously memorize and follow because he has no need to go through something when his mind brings him to the conclusion with ease.  Likewise, he perfectly capable of learning how to socialize.  He may need to take each situation step by step, slowly and meticulously until he learns and remembers all the new information being thrown at him.  Over time he improves considerably.  However, his duties as a mathematician are more interesting and it is very easy for him to "forget" to go out with friends in order to unwind.  Socializing does not come naturally, and occasionally he gives up on it.

In social situations, I rarely have to think.  I react instantly.  Being with people is very easy for me.  I understand them and can relate to them with very little work.  In fact, I enjoy being around people and it is just easy to me, so much easier than taking a math test!  I am not a genius, I just like to hang out with my friends and have a good time.

The Autistic man, however, is labeled as a mathematical genius.  He is also labeled as having a disability.  I say he is neither, or that I am also a genius in terms of understanding society and I have a disability when it comes to math.  My point is, society puts labels on people before truly taking the time to understand each individual person.  Society is lazy, and has a disability in terms of seeing the truth.  Just because someone is different from the majority, does not mean he or she needs to be "fixed" or labeled as having a disorder.  We have to cultivate our interests, work on our weaknesses, and find a balance.  We ALL need to do this, not just those on the Autism Spectrum.  We all must change, adapt, and better ourselves.  That is my goal as a Life Coach.  To bring that message to the world.

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