“I want to write about being an Autistic girl. Sometimes difference isn’t easy. Easiest is to be like everyone else. Trying to fit in when you act and talk like me only makes everyone more aware of how I am not the same. Blending in isn’t an option for me. I stand out anyway.“ ~ Emma Zurcher-Long
Emma’s words, written last night, reminded me of the TED talk Sir Ken Robinson gave eight years ago, in 2006. A talk that more than 26 MILLION people have watched on the TED channel, more than 6 million on Youtube…
“…If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” ~ Sir Ken Robinson
He also said later in this same talk, “…the consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not, because the thing they were good at at school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized. And I think we can’t afford to go on that way.”
He wasn’t referring to children with a different neurology. He was referring to the NON autistic population! Now think about his words in relation to those with a different neurology… “wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized.” THIS, this is something I think about all the time. What if… what if we lived in a society that actually valued Autistic neurology?
“We need to radically rethink our view of intelligence,” Sir Ken Robinson said. He also said, “…creativity — which I define as the process of having original ideas that have value — more often than not comes about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things.” An Autistic brain is all about seeing things differently from the majority of the population. Why are we trying to temper this? Why do we spend so much time, energy, effort and money on trying to make Autistic people like their NON autistic peers? Doesn’t this seem like a massive waste of time? It does to me. And this isn’t even taking into account the trauma we are inflicting on a group of people who canNOT be like their non autistic peers even if they were motivated to be.
Sir Ken Robinson goes on to tell a story about a girl who is failing in school. Her teachers are complaining, she can’t stop fidgeting, she’s doing poorly in all subjects and the mother takes her to a specialist who after listening to all the things the girl is doing wrong, tells the girl he has to speak with her mother privately and together they leave the room, but not before he turns on the radio. “And when they got out the room, he said to her mother, “Just stand and watch her.” And the minute they left the room, she was on her feet, moving to the music. And they watched for a few minutes and he turned to her mother and said, “Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn’t sick; she’s a dancer. Take her to a dance school.”
That girl, Gillian went on to graduate from the Royal Ballet School “and founded her own company — the Gillian Lynne Dance Company — met Andrew Lloyd Weber. She’s been responsible for some of the most successful musical theater productions in history.”
I’m not saying all of our kids will become famous dancers, heading up their own companies, but what I AM saying is that it’s time to rethink how we think about autism and our Autistic children who will one day grow up to be Autistic adults. We can crush them with the insistence they conform, despite all evidence suggesting they cannot or we can encourage them to flourish. We can insist they communicate like their non autistic peers and subject them to endless hours of therapies created to train them in how to be indistinguishable from their peers. OR we can find other ways, creative ways to help them be all they can be.
Sir Ken Robinson ends his talk, which I hope you’ll watch if you haven’t already, by talking about the gift of human imagination and using it wisely. He says, “the only way we’ll do it is by seeing our creative capacities for the richness they are and seeing our children for the hope that they are.”
“Seeing our children for the hope that they are.”
This, it seems to me, is at the crux of everything. Every single child born, no matter how different they may be from the majority of people, must be approached with this in mind.
“Blending in isn’t an option for me. I stand out anyway.” ~ Emma Zurcher-Long