Subtitle: “Dorothy, I’m lucky. I have you and all of the creatures living in Oz.” – answered the Wizard of Oz
Sometimes a story grabs my attention, provokes a reflection on my own life, and the attached article about an eleven year old autistic boy did just that.
No matter what age we are, we humans need other human connections because we are social creatures, and our own internal emotional energy is fueled by the energy given off by others that we encounter on a daily basis.
That’s why we need friends and love from family members in order to validate our existence and provide us with a sense of worth that are own lives matter.
As a school project, the little boy in the article was asked to fill in the blanks on a questionnaire, and one of the questions was to list who some of his friends are.
His write-in answer, “No one”.
When I read that, an extremely powerful electrical charge went through my entire body because I could relate to that when I was a child and also as an adult.
As a severely autistic child I was lucky, I always had at least one and sometimes a few friends while growing up, but those relationships always had a short duration.
As an adult, I’ve tried to analyze why that occurred, and the only answer that I can come up with is what most kids called me, “weirdo” and “retard”. In essence, being ‘different’ precludes one from being a member of the “pack”.
As a young adult things changed. I gradually learned how to mimic “normal” humans and their behavior in communicating, and by the time I was a teenager, I had overcome my language disorder enough to have conversations with them.
However, it took another decade or two to consciously stop interrupting other humans with my own stories or “special interests” which is a common trait of autism. I finally learned “how to be a listener” and I came to realize that most “normal” humans prefer to talk about themselves anyway. 🙂
Although I managed to learn some of the skills to having friends, I’ve never really learned how to make friends from scratch. The majority of my friend relationships as an adult happened by accident in whatever place that I was working at, and I suppose the catalyst for those intermittent friendships was the commonality that we had as working partners in the computer industry.
Here I am today, an ancient autistic in his sixties, and I’m still almost friendless. I use the word ‘almost’ because I do have two close friends that could care less if I’m autistic, they accept me for who I am as a person, and I suspect that I entertain them occasionally with my sense of humor and my autistic personality which gives me a chuckle sometimes as well.
Excerpt: Cornelius said that he doesn’t blame the kids themselves for not befriending his son. “They were clearly not taught to embrace and accept the differences of others. Not by their teachers, which would have been nice, had they thought to do so, but by their parents,” he wrote.
“…accept the differences of others” is the key phrase in this article and the lives of anyone who appears different from others, whether autistic, disabled, of a different race, or even of a different religion.
Excerpt: Addressing readers directly, Cornelius (the father) urged his fellow parents to teach their children empathy.
‘Empathy’ is defined as the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions. It is purported to be an innate characteristic of humans, but maybe that emotional response or feeling does not manifest itself until we’re adults. That might explain why children can be so cruel to their peers that appear different, and maybe he’s right, parents need to teach their children ‘empathy’ early on.
Up until recently, it had been documented and written about that we autistics lack the capacity of ‘empathy’, and that is one of the reasons that we are often locked into our world or reality.
We now know that this assertion is false, and in fact we autistics may have the ability to manifest more ‘empathy’ than non-autistics.
When I think about this eleven year old autistic child that wrote in “No one” for his fill-in the blank answer to name some of his friends on that questionnaire, my thoughts are that he might be extremely ‘empathetic’ to his classmates’ behavior of excluding him because of his difference, and in turn accepting that reality as part of life.
However, neither he nor any autistic child should have to accept being disenfranchised from peers and society, and it’s the responsibility of teachers and parents to change this paradigm.
And the prescription for that change is being accepted, included, befriended, and loved by others so that we (anyone that’s different) can feel validated as fellow humans and part of society on this tiny round planet.
Therefore, I propose some new required classes starting in kindergarten called ‘Empathy 101’, ‘Human Disabilities 101’, ‘Anthropology 101’ (race relations), and finally ‘How to Make Friends and Influence People 101’.
The latter course is probably the most important because that’s a basis for surviving childhood, adulthood, making a living, and avoiding conflict with other humans.
I hope you get something out of the attached article like I did, and the subject needs to be talked about a lot more with actions to implement as part of the solution.