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By William Stillman
Ever awaken in the middle of the night and realize your arm is “asleep” from the elbow down? It is a common situation experienced by nearly everyone at one time or another. As much as your brain is willing that arm to budge, it is deadened to the signals or impulses your brain is sending it. How many of you have actually had to physically move the asleep arm with your other hand in order to free up circulation and regain its use? If that same nightime paralysis were in more than one limb, or lodged in your voicebox, you would outwardly behave in ways that were autistic, just like any of autism’s “cousins” such as Asperger’s Syndrome, dyslexia, Tourette’s, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Cerebral Palsy, Lou Gehrig’s, ADD, ADHD, OCD, Sensory Integration Disorder, and a realm of other human experiences on a neurological continuum.
I’ve heard people refer to autistic children as “mutants” or functioning on par with a dog! This is hard to fathom when we consider that we are all more alike than we are different, and we all are truly brothers of one another. It is this kind of fear that the multi-billion dollar autism industry is founded upon—hastily, intensively, erasing all traces of autism in favor of normalcy. But in my work as an autism consultant, 90 percent of what I endeavor has absolutely nothing to do with the autistic one; it has everything to do with creating a transformation in everyone around that individual!
Noteworthy about those who would suggest that anything less than their perception of normal is unworthy, is that they fail to recognize a truth: at the present rate of autism statistics (one in 150 children and counting), it is they who will soon be the minority if they’re not first rendered “disabled” by virtue of genetics, deteriorating health, poor lifestyle choices and the aging process. They would surely wish for others to continue presuming their intellect regardless of the physical transformation their bodies will endure (which may cause them outwardly to present in an autistic-like manner).
The curious thing is we all have autism to one degree or another! We’ve all experienced neurological crossed-wires that result in motor-control blips, misfires and disconnects. You experienced an “autism” if you’ve:
These common experiences—“brain fades” or instances in which our body vetoes brain signals—affect us all, making us kindred in our humanity. But if you did them with any degree of regularity, you’d be eligible for an autism diagnosis! The next time someone suggests an autistic person’s hand-flapping or finger-flickering is maladaptive, gently remind them that they do it too, only it looks like the times they sit and shake a leg!
As much as we are all on a learning curve about autism (including some “experts” in the medical community), we are also all on a curve of diversity in our collective human experience. This begs the question: is there really any such thing as “normal?” Just maybe autism isn’t really as autistic as it seems.
© 2008, William Stillman