I struggled with coming up with a blog this month. I felt conflicted about wanting to address the ongoing issue of racial injustice and having the awareness that I am a white woman, who is currently uneducated on the topic. I did not want this to be a blog that spoke to the cliché shit you hear from others on social media these days. So, I have begun erasing my internal hard drive and the files I had stored away on race relations. I am rebooting and developing a brand-new, well-informed approach to become a truly authentic ally. I am basically a novice at this point – unlearning, relearning, absorbing, and immersing myself in the history of it all. So yeah, until I become more knowledgeable on Black America, I feel I cannot authentically write about it, without sounding like a privileged white woman.
So, instead, I decided to write this blog about what I am well informed about… Autism, and the unprejudiced lens of those living with it. In this piece you’re about to read, I provide a broader viewpoint about how we as human beings can learn from those living with Autism, by seeing the world, and those living in it, through a colorful, just, and nondiscriminatory viewfinder. Stay with me here.
Over the course of the past two weeks, as I became more engaged in Black American studies, something struck me. Whereas I was surrounded by a wealth of information, I realized that I wasn’t only being taught by the all books/articles, podcasts, activists, courses, etc. I had a surprising network of individuals who unknowingly was clearing out a path towards learning. For the past nine years, I have been looking through a fresh set of eyes that takes in the world and its inhabitants, differently. Those eyes I speak of belong to my 9-year-old son, Kellan – and the members of the Autistic community who share his same lens. As to not make this solely about Kellan’s vision, I decided to reach out to some of the parents in the Autism community. I told them about my theory above (“how we as human beings can learn from those living with Autism, by seeing the world, and those living in it, through a colorful, just, and nondiscriminatory viewfinder “), and the blog I wanted to write, and then our conversations began. I chatted (mostly through email) with close to 17 moms and dads. I asked them to share their thoughts on how their autistic son/daughter see the world and those living in it. Do they feel their kids exhibit any prejudices based on color/race/sexual orientation/class/etc.? And to explain it all to me without judgement.
Now let me set forth the methodology (it’s the researcher in me): these parents were US-based, a diverse mix in age (35-60), race (40% black, 10% Hispanic, 50% white), sex (70% female), varying income levels, parents with kids 8 and above, verbal and non-verbal.
Once I had time to download all that I learned, one key takeaway jumped out – the way Autistics see people, is the way we should ALL see people. The world from their eyes, is the one I, and so many of you reading this, yearn to live in. Here’s why that is:
Autistics do not judge others
All seventeen of the parents I spoke to, echoed this point. Those living with Autism typically don’t pay much attention to many of the things that seem so important to neurotypical people. They can care less if you’re fat, skinny, rich, poor, black, white or blue. They do not care about your diplomas or degrees, or your career choice. They do not care if you live in a studio apartment or a mansion. The only thing they care about is the heart beating beneath it all… that it is kind, happy and true. Everything else, everything we neurotypical humans are fighting about right now, is completely irrelevant to them.
“My middle child is 14, he has autism. We decided to take our kids to a protest in town and told them they can all make signs. My oldest son made one that said: “Black Lives Matter”. My daughter made one that said, “#JusticeForGeorge, Breonna, Ahmaud…” and my 14-year-old comes out of his room with his sign that said: “Kindness Matters”. I almost cried. Autistic children just look and feel deeper. Whereas their voice may not be as bold, their intentions sure are.” – RiRi, TX
Autistics have a strong sense of justice
Even though people living with Autism sometimes struggle to understand what most people mean when they talk about empathy, some have such a fierce sense of justice and fairness. A good majority of the parents I spoke to, find that when a cause or unfair situation arises that rubs their kids the wrong way, they will pursue a solution with a level of singular focus and passion. It is that type of determination and fairmindedness which we neurotypicals need to desperately polish up on.
“My ASD son is tiny, frail, very quiet but extremely observant. Over a matter of months, he witnessed a girl in his class getting teased by peers about her weight. My son never told me about this, until one day I get a call from school saying he got in a fight. I asked the principal if they had the right kid?! My son, in a fight?! Well, apparently, he had enough of seeing this girl getting bullied, and charged at one of the kids making fun, and punched him. I have never been so shocked, yet so proud that he stood up for this girl.” – Carmine, CT
They see ALL the colors
There was this thread the other day in an Autism group I belong to, where one Mom said, “Autistics are colorblind”. I and 88 other parents kindly disagreed with that statement. Autistics are anything but colorblind. Let me explain. Many autistics are sensory sensitive, meaning each of their 5 senses are often heightened, sometimes to an excruciating degree. With that said, the things neurotypicals do not take time to notice (the smell in the air, the squeaking of brakes, the color of a flower, etc.), Autistics do. In fact, they not only notice all the things, but some, they revel in. Like color for instance…they truly see the entire color spectrum (and then some). Color intrigues them, they want to learn more about all the facets that make up the hue. Isn’t that amazing? What if we can all be that curious and accepting? How much further along as a society might we be?
I have one daughter (with ASD). Once she turned 5, we moved into a new neighborhood. Our next store neighbors were from India. They had a little boy named Sash. My daughter and Sash became fast friends. One day, they were coloring at my house and Sash asked my daughter what her favorite color crayon was. She pulled a crayon out and matter-of-factly replied: “This one!” I asked what it was called, and she said “Sash”. Sash smiled so big. I went to look at the crayon and it said, “Golden Beige”. Til this day, “golden beige” is still her favorite color, and Sash is still her favorite person. PS, they’re now 16.” – Beth, WA
There were many other synergies that came out of these parent conversations, but those three were not only the most pronounced but also the most relevant.
There is no doubt that Autism can be a beast, one that somedays goes undefeated. And as parents raising kids with Autism know, there is a lot we cannot control… including how they choose to see the world. We can try to impart our wisdom and knowledge, but their brains work differently, and that is why they see the world as such. So, we reverse the process and learn to enter their world, on their terms, in order to better understand their take on it. As difficult as this is at times, I have to be honest, these days, it serves as a place of refuge, a setting without racial tension or political divide, a space with no sides, no judgements, no walls – just an openness to see, feel, and be. It is the perfect backdrop for learning, really.
Now if you’ll excuse me, this student has some work to do.
Janis Gaudelli is The Founder of The Daily Feels. She started this passion project to reveal the magic behind storytelling, and how truth-based narratives bring people together in the most heart-warming of ways. Fascinated by soul, depth, intellect, raw truths and rebellion with a cause. Often captivated by the awe of nature: star gazing, moon manifesting, sunset chasing, waves crashing, crickets singing. Fiercely curious about the inner-workings of the human psyche… she professionally studies human behavior for a living. Forever proud and grateful for being a mom to the force that fuels her life: her 8-year-old son, and greatest professor, Kellan.