Some Of Us are Looking at the Stars
"When you look in direction A, at 90 degrees to the disc, you don't see many stars. But when you look in direction B, you see lots more stars because you are looking into the main body of the galaxy". This more-to-it-than-meets-the-eye extract from Mark Haddon's prize winning novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time gives us an idea of what the world is like in the eyes of an autistic. Narrated by a young boy with autism, who is in fact, a child genius (note the geeky terminology), on closer inspection, Haddon really gives us an insight into what autism is like. Haddon's narrator suggests Direction A resembles the "normal", people who aren't "disabled". If you look at Direction A, you don't see many stars. People without disabilities cannot see as much as someone with autism can. In direction B, you see many more stars, because they see things differently. Every tiny detail is taken in. As Oscar Wilde put it, "we are all in the gutter" but those of us who know autistic people or have autism ourselves are the new stargazers in town.
Autism affects how a person sees the world, and the relationships they can build and then keep. They may experience under-sensitivity or over-sensitivity with their senses, smells, touch, tastes, sounds, visions. So that'll be much like your typical, common garden pregnant woman or stroppy teenager fighting puberty then. According to The Telegraph, the latest statistics show that 61,570 schoolchildren in the UK have been diagnosed with having some form of autism. Autism is categorised as a lifelong developmental disability; however people who suffer from autism are not less able or any different than the next person, and I'll tell you why.
In February 2013, the reprehensible Councillor Collin Brewer said, "Disabled children cost too much and should be put down". After much persuasion, Collin Brewer (feeling ever so guilty) typed up his apology letters out to various frustrated people, including the usually lamentable Katie Price who has a disabled young boy, Harvey. However, Price and many others who received their letter, signed by Brewer himself, did not feel a pang of forgiveness; they took his letter as an insult, most likely because the letter wasn't much of an apology, but a stiff, typed up "I am deeply sorry", probably written by one of his obedient secretaries, with his signature on the bottom of the tear stained page. Personally, I'm restraining myself from "putting him down". Having a young brother who has autism, which isn't the only disability he has, I cannot contain my vexation at this rabid vermin of a public servant.
More homo-sapiens who exceedingly grind on me for their stunning lack of kindness towards autistic children are the staff at New Jersey's Horace Mann Elementary School. In February (must be a popular month for all the scum of the earth to come creeping out) last year, Stuart Chaifetz decided after sixth months of kicking himself in the teeth wondering why his ten year old autistic sons behaviour at school had suddenly worsened, enough was enough. He decided he needed to know what was going on in the classroom, so he attached a recording device to his son, Akian. That night, Stuart's life shattered. Teachers bullying pupils is usually rare, and so is young children with disabilities being targeted by staff. Unfortunately, in this situation, both of those disgusting things happened. These repugnant, revulsive excuses for human beings told young Akian that he is "a bastard", to "shut your mouth", and also discussed their sex lives, use of alcohol, marriage problems. The monstrosity of this event causes me to bite on my knuckle until I draw blood. Luckily, the main culprit was fired, however other teachers who also made fun of Akian have just been moved to different schools. To bully more children.
My brother Kieran is three years old, and he is the most extraordinary person I have encountered. Yes, autism can create certain barriers when maintaining relationships, and Kieran is not always ecstatically engaging with children of his own age; however he can keep a conversation going all day with somebody older like myself. He can work a computer better than me, remember faces from two years ago (handy when I can't recall who I snogged on the weekend), he even does the washing, which is more than what I do. There were a few teenage boys in McDonalds some days ago, and as we walked by them, Kieran decided he would shout his name, date of birth, address and postcode at them. This is just a thing he does. There has been nothing missing from my house, yet.
Kieran sometimes gets a bit distressed by certain things however. For example, he refuses to go to the toilet when we're in public because he loathes the noise of hand-dryers. I, on the other hand, just can't hack the smell of the public shithole. Different strokes, different folks.
Sometimes it's hard to keep calm when he has an episode, especially in public. When me and my Mother take him to school, he is not best pleased, and I have to be the one to persuade him to attend, which is hard work (for me - school is not my strong point). We then arrive at the playground, where the fun really begins. Kieran will violently kick, push, scratch anything to get back in the car and go home (much like how most school teachers feel every morning, if they're honest). Other parents and siblings will look over at the toddler having a tantrum, and stare gormlessly, blatantly judging myself, my brother, and his upbringing. They mistake him for being abused or somewhat neglected, I gather from the looks. But do you know what? I don't give a toss. I wouldn't have him any other way. I don't think I could be more proud of him. There is a continuous smile on my face when I am around him, whether he is hoovering up with Henry or creating videos of him and my younger sister repeatedly singing "Wind the Bobbin up".
I find it rather fascinating. People with autism see the world completely differently to us. It's like having a blank canvas and creating what you want the world to be like. We'll never know how they see it, but those of us who have such luminaries in our lives are fortunate enough to catch a glimpse.