Autism Speaks

Kaitlin Mahar

Autism. At this point, nearly everyone knows what it is, or at least has heard about it. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported on March 28, 2014 that a staggering 1 in 68 children has autism in the U.S., and that number continues to steadily rise.

Kaitlin - bw

April is Autism Awareness Month, and whether or not you are familiar with autism, here are some things to keep in mind, not just during the month of April, but all the time:

1. The word autistic is not an insult. To refer to somebody who makes a mistake, or does anything that is in any way, shape, or form abnormal as autistic or any other kind of disability, is politically incorrect. If you’re really that ignorant and find yourself struggling to find other adjectives to describe a person, maybe you should invest in a thesaurus. If you’re really struggling, you could try a bookstore, or even download an app to your smartphone.

2. When talking about a person with autism, don’t just say that the person is autistic. For example, instead of saying “the autistic girl,” say “the girl with autism.” Their disability is just one aspect of who they are; only one of their characteristics. The person comes first, not the disability.

3. Think before you speak. Sometimes, things aren’t as simple as a kid having a temper tantrum, or a kid who’s just weird. What may look like a tantrum to outsiders, may be a child having a melt down because a certain noise hurts his ears. A kid who seems like a “freak” may actually just have some stimulatory, or “stim,” behaviors that help him feel comfortable in his own environment. Regardless, things are not always what they seem, and, if you do speak up, try seeing if the person’s family or aid needs help. Don’t just stand there staring and laughing, which brings me to my final point:

4. People with autism are people. While this may sound similar to my second point, what I’m trying to emphasize here is that they are people and should be treated as such. They are not deaf, blind, or stupid; they are human beings. So when you do make a joke about some kid’s weird behaviors, or you antagonize and egg-on the kid in your class who’s a little different than everyone else, don’t think they don’t notice. They have feelings and completely understand what’s going on. Even if you think it’s okay to talk about them like they aren’t even there, they are, and it’s cruel.

If you have any other questions, feel free to visit websites like www.autismspeaks.org or www.nationalautismassociation.org. When you see people with autism and/or their families struggling, try to do more than just stare and laugh. Try to be helpful in some way, even if it’s just encouraging your friends to be a little nicer. If you do, then thank you, because while you may not think you’re making much of a difference, you are to the person or people toward whom autism you’re showing humanity.