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What’s Normal? The Socially Acceptable Prejudice Against Autistic People Today (6.29.2008) | Eve Reiland

This was written in 2008 under Genevieve Hinson, my full and former married name. – Eve Reiland

Drug them or keep them hidden was the response of blogger Gayla McCord to the recent news of an autistic boy and his mom being booted off a plane.

In her blog titled Sometimes ‘Special Needs’ Just Need To Stay Home she states:

I think the United States has latched on to the whole if it’s out of the ordinary it must be an illness or disease. Now I’m not saying this particular kid wasn’t truly autistic, but I do believe there are many kids who are being diagnosed as autistic who are genuinely nothing more then flaming brats and because these kids are brats, the worlds is supposed to do everything to make them more comfortable?

… There’s lots more I can say on the whole overuse of special needs syndrome that’s making life so annoying for normal people – but that’s for another day.

I’d like to think her attitude was singular in its lack of tolerance. However, the recent rash of news stories surrounding children with autism has brought other like-minded responses.

In the comments on the story Autistic Kid Banned From Church on

William wrote:

She says,

“Unless you’re used to what my son does, it can be shocking.”

What she is really saying,

Anyone normal person would be shocked by his behavior.

William goes on to question if it’s normal for humans to eat live rats or to strap bombs on their bodies and blow up buses. He quotes Merriam Webster’s dictionary definition of normal.

On the same site another post titled “Punished for Autism?” HodekS commented:

Normal kids are held to a certain level of public behavior, but kids with autism are NOT. They’re special. They have special privileges to do whatever.

Do you see the common thread here? That word ‘normal’ keeps popping up. It keeps barging itself into the conversation for autism tolerance and awareness.

Because of that word a wall gets built. It’s the dividing line between ‘them’ and ‘us.’ And somehow, someway it’s making it okay – justifying – the prejudiced sentiment.

Did you know the word normalcy didn’t enter the English language until 1860?

In his book “The Short Bus: A Journey Beyond Normal” author Jonathan Mooney writes:

… Before then (1860) we had only the concept of the ideal, which no one could ever hope to obtain.

In the United States, normal arose within a cultural context as the nation sought to control a growing urban population and Americanize immigrants from around the world. Normalcy, though, is first and foremost an idea that arises from statistics.

The normal, norm, or normalcy do not exist in the real world of people, despite the fact that we are told that we can modify our behavior and train our bodies and minds to reach it. We are told to chase it – in our culture, in our families, in our lives. But when we chase it – as I did – it disappears. Normalcy is like a horizon that keeps receding as you approach it.

Parents of children who have autism spend countless hours, dollars, time and energy into educating their children to have more socially appropriate social, coping and behavioral skills. Many times these kids are receiving 40-hours a week in training.

Often parents with autistic children deal with isolation because friends and family members don’t understand and lack tolerance.

How would you feel if you were the parent? How would you feel if you had autism?

Imagine waking up one morning in a country with a vastly different language, culture and social norms. Imagine they hold you accountable to behaving and interacting just like them and have zero patience for your mistakes, your frustrations and meltdowns.

Imagine being stared at, ignored, or yelled at because you couldn’t achieve exactly what they wanted in order to belong. Imagine being an outcast, shunned and not having the skills to communicate how that hurts and to ask for help.

Imagine you have a parent, sibling, lover or friend who can speak that country’s language and are asking for compassion and tolerance while you learn. What if they get shoved to the side as well?

What if this wasn’t another country or community – but yours? The one you were born into, the one you grew up in?

David K. March, author of dkmnow, writes:

The continual day-to-day effects of widespread social prejudice are, almost without exception, far more genuinely debilitating, both in the immediate sense, and throughout the life-span, than anything that is truly intrinsic to autism itself.

As a parent of a child who has autism, I’m asking for some human decency, compassion and tolerance. My child’s special needs don’t show on his face. He doesn’t have a wheelchair or crutches to notify the public of his circumstances.

In fact, you may meet him and never know he has high-functioning autism. Often he’s very engaging, talkative and curious. Heck, he’s even learned to crack a few jokes – and understand when someone is making one too.

However, if he’s having one of those moments and he’s inconveniencing you with his meltdown – have some patience. He’s already been bullied, teased, picked on and shunned by peers, teachers, adults and strangers enough for one lifetime. He doesn’t need your glares, smart mouth remarks and attitude. It doesn’t resolve or alleviate the situation. While he might not show it, he feels it and it hurts.

And frankly, it only makes the situation worse.

While I’m at it, know this — I’m not shoving him in some back room or making sure we only visit ‘safe’ zones. He’s a citizen of your community, your state, your nation and your world. He has every right to be a participating member of it — just as much as you do.

As a matter of fact, the world as you know it is because of people like my son.

To paraphrase his diagnosing doctor – You wouldn’t have combustion engines, computers or technology as we know it without people who had autism, OCD, ADHD, or were bi-polar. The neurotypical mind can’t focus like that.

Often people with autism are scientists, college professors, inventors, and computer programmers. They’ve have had huge influences in medical breakthroughs, technology and even the car you drive. These are the people you depend on. They helped create the word program you use to type letters, the machine you swipe your credit card and the light blinking above your head. In many more ways not mentioned, they helped create or influence the world as you know it.

Patterned after the famous words of Tyler Durden — Do not … fuck with them.

Don’t vote them out of your class, kick them off of your plane, exclude them from your yearbook or ban them from your church. Don’t stretch the word ‘safety’ to include your temporary discomfort. Don’t wield the word ‘normal’ like a sword.

I’m not asking for my son to have priveleges to do whatever. I’m not asking for uncontrolled chaos and truly dangerous situations to be ignored.

What I am asking for is some human decency and compassion. I’m asking you to have tolerance and awareness. Are you willing to try?

If so, why not take it a step further and join us … as we go beyond normal … and strive towards the ideal.

Read related posts:

Idiots Guide to Special Needs – An Open Discussion and Virtual Learning Session

Disabled Kid Thrown Off a Plane–And the Attitudes Come Out (A special thank you to Deaf Mom for bringing this to my attention and blogging about it.)

The Skies Are Only Friendly If You Don’t Have Autism

News: “Autistic toddler kicked off airplane”

WOW. I do not even know what to say. Wait, yes I do.

I am I, you are you

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network
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Comments (18) Posted on Sunday, June 29th, 2008

By Eve Reiland

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