Having a son with autism has taught me so much. One of the things I appreciate the most has been learning just how important it is not just to learn about and understand differences, but to actually accept, respect and celebrate them. This belief was reinforced just recently.
A couple of weeks ago I took my kids to a dinner show, where a woman with her own kids (much younger than mine) got angry at my eleven-year-old autistic son for having bad manners. I told her he was autistic to which she promptly replied that she had several family members who were autistic and that she was a teacher who had worked with many autistic children and ALL of them had manners. It was a very frustrating interaction with someone who believes in blanket statements and sameness. Despite her claims she didn’t seem to understand that it’s called a “spectrum” for a reason—because it’s so different for everyone who has it.
One of the reasons I was so saddened by what happened was not just because she showed ignorance about autism and was judging my son—and me—but because it showed her belief in sameness. It’s the belief that everyone should fit into a box and be exactly the way we think they should be. Anyone who doesn’t meet those expectations we have for them is bad or wrong or horrible and should be judged, condemned and corrected.
I have seen this with mental illness/health. One person is helped by medication, so they think everyone should take medication. Anyone who doesn’t is stupid. Others strongly believe in only natural remedies and condemn all who want to give medication a try. It’s the belief that because yoga and diet cured my depression it will absolutely, without a doubt, cure yours. This woman supposedly knew many autistic people who had good manners which meant that ALL people with autism can and should have them as well. Any who don’t need to be judged, condemned and corrected.
I believe this is one of the worst falsehoods we can perpetuate. This belief that everyone and everything should be exactly the same (whatever that “same” is in our mind) leads to things like racism, bigotry, hate, exclusion. It doesn’t leave any room for diversity, love, kindness, acceptance, inclusion, learning or growth.
I know I have, at times, been guilty of this, too. I’m grateful for my son for helping to change my perspective. I know he will likely have to deal with people like this woman his whole life. I spoke with both my kids about it—about the importance of not expecting everyone to be exactly the same. We are all different. That’s one of the great things about life! We all have different struggles, strengths, weaknesses, etc. Because of that we are all equipped to help others in different ways, just like we are able to learn from others in different ways.
As I continue to learn and grow, I hope I will remember this lesson and the importance of not only being okay with, but celebrating differences.
One thought on “Celebrating Differences”
Judgementalism is yet another ism (like racism and classism, not autism) destroying society. I’ve become much more patient as I’ve aged. With that comes acceptance of others. I wish others would make a similar shift.
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