Beyond THE FUTURE: Autism Vox and The National Autistic Society
Based in the U.K., the NAS has just launched I Exist, the second phase of its Think Differently Campaign. The I Exist program has been developed to raise awareness of and campaign for “better support and services for adults with autism.” Through its I Exist survey, the NAS has found that most adults with autism are “isolated and ignored.” “A lack of recognition that autism affects adults, a lack of understanding of people’s needs, and a lack of suitable services means that most adults are prevented from realising their true potential,” the organization states.
These findings strike a chord with Kristina and, I’m sure, most parents with children with autism, especially as those children grow older. “As Charlie has gotten taller,” Kristina writes, “his shoulders stronger, his shoes bigger—eyes gets averted. People…walk on with a studied look of ‘I am minding my own business.’ Of course, people will do what they need to in public but sometimes I get the feeling that Charlie is rendered invisible by those gazes aimed the other way.”
This struck a chord with me because of the stories I’m currently writing and because of comments on the January 25 “Rate Your Bliss” post on Patry’s blog regarding people who so often feel invisible. One comment on rating emotional pain especially stood out; it’s from Chosha, an Australian blogger at A Little East of Reality: “Invisibility, for me, would sit somewhere above loneliness (because it is loneliness imposed) and somewhere below betrayal.” I find it amazing that such a simple statement can be so thick with layers of meaning. What a powerful way to describe emotional pain as something that can be caused and experienced in an immense variety of ways, including invisibility as “loneliness imposed.”
Kristina, for her part, refuses to accept that children with special needs necessarily grow up to be ignored, invisible adults. As a college professor, she’s glad to see students who struggle to fit in and succeed in her classroom; she considers them evidence that despite various obstacles and challenges, all people deserve the chance to realize their true potential, regardless of what others might think or even prefer they do. Kristina notes she’s aware of the challenge as a teacher to “make my classroom suit their needs…to get creative and teach them differently (so they can thrive)…just as Charlie has thrived because his teachers have thought differently, tried different things, and never given up.”
While results from reports such as the NAS I Exist survey raise awareness of the needs of all people with autism, I always learn much more from the advocates, parents, and teachers like Kristina Chew who provide the personal insights that put such findings into perspective. As Kristina states, people with autism exist, they are here, they’ve “got places to go and things to do and learn and we need to help to make that possible.” There’s no reason any person should have to suffer through loneliness imposed, yet so many do.
Photo © Eastern Michigan University