I’ve been thinking a lot about autism lately; not surprising since I’m on the spectrum. But what I’ve been thinking about is one of those things that sits in the back of your mind for a while, until it demands attention. My thought: What is the best way to help people understand what life is truly like for an autistic?
We all know the prevalence of autism is growing. I think it’s at something like 1 in 110 children are somewhere on the autism spectrum. However, it feels like very few people are taking the time to try and understand what that means for that one child. Maybe I’ve misconstrued some things, missed the pro-autism commercials/TV shows/news reports, but the majority of what I see and hear involving autism is all about how much of a struggle it is for the families, the latest research into the causes, the latest steps in finding a cure.
Honestly, all of that stuff is hard to listen to. It’s like neurotypicals (non-autistics) see my autism as a problem, something bad that must be destroyed. Now, before anyone gets mad, I know not everyone feels that way. Most of my family is very supportive and so are many, many other people I’ve gotten to know and become acquainted with over the years. But when the mainstream media fills the airwaves with statements about autism destroying families and lives, keeping autistics from achieving much of anything, and basically being a bane to human existence, it makes me want to cry. Sometimes I do cry, like with a lot of the anti-autism propaganda Autism Speaks has put out in the past, such as the “I am Autism” ad campaign (they’ve since been a little more careful about what they say and how they say it).
Because of all of this stuff that tends to skew the general population against a wonderful group of creative, intelligent people, I’ve been trying to think of ways to help neurotypicals understand what autism really is and what it’s really like to live with. As a writer, of course my thoughts immediately go to articles, books, blog posts, etc. But I wonder, will that be enough? Would it be better to get more of the videos created by autistics into the mainstream media where they will reach a wider audience? In this day and age where television and the internet seem to be more popular than books, would a documentary or a series of news reports on the real world of autism reach more people? Maybe a reality TV show that chronicles the lives of autistics would help.
Most of that is beyond my capabilities, since I don’t even know where to begin with trying to get a network to create a new show. Written word, however, is something I understand. So, what do you think would help people gain a deeper understanding of autism? Memoirs? Novels? Narrative non-fiction? A series of articles? A dedicated blog? Something else entirely?
Please, share your opinions and ideas about this important topic.