Autism is not a disease, it is an opportunity
Whether a person with autism is functional depends largely on the society in which he or she lives. Neurodiversity offers opportunities. Photo: Sewcream / Adobe Stock

Autism, or rather the autism spectrum, is not a disease to be cured, nor is it a tragedy. It is a condition that allows these individuals to understand and interact with the world in a different way. Unfortunately, there is a lot of ignorance about the subject in our community, hence the importance of correcting erroneous ideas and avoiding prejudices.

In the United States, one in 54 people is on the autism spectrum, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is a large number. Let’s look at some information that should be considered when dealing with a person with autism.

What is the autism spectrum?

According to the Mayo Clinic, autism spectrum disorder is a condition related to brain development that impacts how a person socializes and perceives the world.

Among other things, this includes limited and repetitive patterns of behavior, atypical social interactions, and special interests, that is, a fascination with certain topics. Some of these characteristics can make certain people uncomfortable.

Autism is not a disease

Despite all the advances in the world of neuroscience, it is extremely difficult to come up with a clear definition of what is considered “normal.” Therefore, the term “neurotypical” is used to refer to an average person. Those with autism should not be treated as “handicapped” or “weird,” but as people with different, or neurodiverse, abilities.

A person on the autism spectrum is not sick. There is nothing to cure. Therapy helps people with autism and their families navigate different situations, while taking into account their abilities and special interests.

A person is not categorized as having more or less autism. It is not a linear situation; each experience can be completely different, which is why it is considered a spectrum. You may even have interacted with an autistic person without knowing it.

In search of a neurodiverse society

In part, the prejudice against neurodiverse people comes from the idea that human beings should be self-sufficient. Many think that the ideal is for a person to fend for himself or herself and not need anyone, but this is a myth.

If we learned anything from the pandemic, it is that no one is truly self-sufficient. You didn’t make your clothes, grow your own food, or print your own money. We all depend on someone else. We live in community, and this is how it functions.

It is precisely the diversity of abilities that strengthens us as a society.

Neurodiversity offers opportunities

The main thing is to reject prejudice and misinformation. Whether a person with autism is functional depends largely on the society in which he or she lives.

Companies and schools should understand that people’s abilities are different and are no less valid. For example, grades and performance should not be based on oral presentations.

Do not listen to conspiracy theories about “alternative cures” for autism or wild ideas about possible causes.

Many people with autism are sensitive to loud noises. There is no need to blast the car speakers to show off the music we love.

Treating those with autism like they are sick, telling them that they are “stupid” or “weird,” or making a pity face when their condition is mentioned just perpetuates prejudices, which does not benefit anyone.

What happens when we allow these individuals to flourish? Artists such as writer Emily Dickinson and actor Anthony Hopkins, scientists like Isaac Newton, athletes like Lionel Messi, and entrepreneurs like Elon Musk are on the autism spectrum. Opening our minds to the idea of ​​a neurodiverse society, without prejudice, offers us the opportunity to become better people and to have a strong community.

Find this article in Spanish here.

Diego Barahona A.

Periodista, editor, asesor, y presentador. De 2016 a 2019 el periodista más galardonado en Estados Unidos por los Premios José Martí. Autor del best seller: ¿Cómo leer a las personas?

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