As the prevalence of children of born with autism grows in the United States, a lot of people are wondering, “What do we do about this?” And often what they really mean is, “How do we fix it?”
People on the autism spectrum must face serious daily challenges when navigating a world designed for neurotypicals. Many people with autism will need therapy to be able to cope with daily life, communicate with their peers, and combat anxiety. Depending on where a person falls on the spectrum, he or she may need lifelong support. Or the person may be able to get away with revealing their autism diagnosis only when they want. Mom was right: everybody’s different.
But there’s a difference between teaching coping strategies and “fixing.” Fixing assumes people on the spectrum aren’t offering unique value to the world right now, just as they are. And that perspective is what really needs to be fixed.
There are quite a few lessons we can learn from those on the spectrum, some of which neurotypicals desperately need. Here are 4 things neurotypicals can learn from people with autism:
1. Be Direct
People with autism often have trouble navigating the world of innuendo, double meanings, and sarcasm that neurotypicals wade through every day. Think of how much time we would save if we all just said what we mean! We only have so many hours in the day—why waste them getting to the point?
While the frankness typical of people on the spectrum can be at first off-putting for neurotypicals, after some perspective adjustment it can be wonderfully refreshing to talk to someone who will tell us what they really think. People willing to be completely honest are a rare find.
2. Be passionate
People with autism are often caricatured as not being able to talk about anything except for what they love most: a video game, a new hobby, or even Battlestar Galactica. This razor-sharp focus can feel a little tedious to neurotypicals, but let’s be honest, it’s also a little enviable. Sure, balance is great, but so is being so fully passionate about something that you want to share it with everyone all the time. Neurotypicals could take a cue from those with ASD on how to give their passions a little more breathing room!
3. We all need some time to ourselves
The internet is full of advice on how to let people on the spectrum have time to themselves away from stimuli so they can relax. Meanwhile, many people not on the autism spectrum charge ahead, adding more activities, more responsibilities, and more demands until they have barely enough time to eat or sleep.
Perhaps a neurotypical won’t have a meltdown (or perhaps they will), but living life without downtime is not only stressful, but robs someone of the opportunity to enjoy simple day to day pleasures. People on the spectrum will often retreat to a quiet, safe place when they are feeling overwhelmed and stay there until they are ready to jump back into the grind. Don’t knock that strategy—it seems like a wise way for anyone to deal with our unpredictable world.
4. Pizza is awesome
Some days, you just need pizza—or whatever your favorite food is. Pizza, chicken nuggets, cereal with ketchup—we should all be able to enjoy our favorite snack without worrying about what others think. You only live once—dig in!
This list only scratches the surface of what neurotypicals can learn from those on the spectrum. When we attempt to view the world from a new perspective, we gain new insight and more empathy for those who are different from us. Neurotypicals will miss out if they don’t ask what they can learn, and gain, from seeing the world from an autistic perspective.Whizzco