Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Upside of Being Socially Unaware

For all of the trials and challenges kids on The Spectrum have socially there is one really unique and spectacular thing a lot of these special kids have in common, they don't really see the difference between 'celebrities' or 'the popular people' and 'regular' people. To them everyone is the same. We're all just people. To them, everyone deserves to be respected and heard on the basis of who they are ... social standing has nothing to do with anything. That's why, I think, there are so many stories of these kids doing extraordinary things, fearlessly asking for what they desire, because they don't feel the same social constraints that most of us 'normal' people do.

Neuro-typical people (NT, 'normal' folks) tend to put people in a hierarchy of popularity or success. We do it subconsciously most of the time. We meet someone, hear about what they do for a living, see how they are dressed or hear of their accomplishments and we score them. Subsequent people we meet get scored and mentally placed in order. Its this societal order that gives us the jitters when we are interacting with someone 'above' our score or place in the world but since people on the Autism Spectrum don't understand social subtleties, like pecking orders, they can move against the grain, outside of the bonds of what is expected. They can, and do, just look at the individual for who and what they are.

The most remarkable thing about this free-floating socializing is the way people respond to it. Because there is so obviously no guile, ulterior motives or other questionable strings attached to these interactions the requests or invitations of friendship extended to the 'celebrity' is often accepted at face value. Most people see the honest interest and respond in a completely open way.

I have seen and heard stories of these amazing kids being welcomed on to sports teams, movie sets, university research labs and even the White House ... just because they asked. They have seen someone or something that has interested them and they have taken that leap of faith that so many of us would avoid. They have assumed that people are just people and if they are able to say 'yes' they will and if they can't, its nothing personal. There is very little fear of rejection in these moments and it is a magical thing to see.

Admittedly, there is some frustration, heartache and disappointment that goes along with this kind of openness but more times than not I have seen and heard of amazing opportunities open up just because one little kid with Autism asked.

Here are a couple of links to articles and a video that depicts exactly what I'm talking about ... take a minute to read about one of the few perks of being socially unaware!

Did you hear the one about the Autistic kid and Jeff Dunham?

For the Love of the Game

I've shown this video before ... but it never gets old!

There are so many things that I am proud of Dude for doing and being but nothing touches my heart more than when he sees and responds to a person rather than a position or a status. I love how he sees opportunity for friendship and learning in every person he meets and most of all, I love how he honours the unique and special in each of his friends because to him, "we are all just people but we are all so different and I like that about us."

“The essence of our effort to see that every child has a chance must be to assure each an equal opportunity, not to become equal, but to become different - to realize whatever unique potential of body, mind and spirit he or she possesses”

John Fischer quotes

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