It takes unimaginable strength to continually endure, persist and overcome. People with disabilities aren’t weak. They are the strongest human beings you will ever meet.
— National Autism Association
For a person with autism, the world can be a scary, confusing and frustrating place.
On one hand, you need to deal with everything the world throws at you. This is not measured, it happens all at once. You are expected to conform to a world you do not understand. This can cause anxiety, loneliness and depression.
On the other hand, if your diagnosis is known, those around you can treat you differently — in some cases they may overcompensate, patronise or even ignore you in their ignorance. This can be worse than teasing.
The strength required by a child with autism to get through a school day is much greater than the so-called ‘normal’ child. There is a continual bombardment of information, social cues and expectations to deal with. Sessions like PE, group work and lunch can be a nightmare owing to their lack of structure and the sheer noise and activity they generate. There are likely to be meltdowns, which means you may get in trouble at the least, but the stares, sniggers and comments from your peers are worse.
It would be like making your way through an impossible maze at the Fair, with mirrors at every corner, obstacles, dark tunnels, ball-pelting machines and invisible voices yelling conflicting instructions and advice at you non-stop — then laughing at you when you inevitably lose your cool.
The next day, school is on again, the child returns and deals with it all over again.
Every day is a learning curve. But, with the right support daily struggles can be overcome — not overnight, but in time.
Any person with any disability has this same strength. Sadly, as a society we don’t seem to recognise and acknowledge it. We may throw money at it, or pity it, or hold special ‘awareness days’ for it; but on the whole we don’t get it.
Physical disabilities are right there in our faces; and, still, society doesn’t really deal with these. Putting up with the stares and whispered comments, or the sheer lack of tolerance and patience, must take enormous strength. The willpower to achieve what the rest of us take for granted is something I can only imagine, not having experienced it.
And, what about the hidden disabilities? These are the ones ‘suffered’ by people who otherwise look normal. You know the ones, ‘You don’t look like you have a disbility.’ Autism is one of these because in general people with autism just look like everyone else; it’s when they open their mouth to say something, or need to engage in their stimming activity, that people say ‘Whoa.’
Anxiety and depression fall into this category too. Both of these conditions are debilitating, but they don’t come with a big public sign advertising their presence, and people can be so judgemental. Just to get out of bed and face the day can be a massive achievement.
So — power to everyone out there who lives with a disability. You have an amazing strength that the rest of us could certainly learn from.