Limits to Understanding
There is only so much space in my head. Practically speaking, that means I pay attention to what’s important or what impacts me and the people I care about. Are there important issues I’m not knowledgeable about? Of course, nobody that I know I can pay attention to everything in any depth all the time. This means that I can honestly say I don’t know about a lot of things and I’m okay with that. I’m trying my best to extend the same feelings towards other people and what they experience. People don’t really get it until it really affects them and they have a need to know.
Take for instance Autism Spectrum Disorder. Most people really don’t understand how it affects individuals and families. They learn a little or have a few examples and they think they get it. Even the most well-meaning person often doesn’t understand unless someone close to them has Autism.
Sometimes people assume that Autism is very similar amongst individuals, that if you‘ve seen one person with Autism, you’ve seen them all. Having Autism myself, I can say that’s definitely not true. I have been told that I have an average case of Autism but that it’s much less obvious due to my support system. That if I didn’t tell you that I have Autism, you wouldn’t know. You would think I’m quirky, nerdy, or slightly different but not that I have Autism. I try my best to act similarly to most people to fit in better so hearing that is welcome information. Occasionally when I need support or help, not looking like I need help can be a problem. I have heard, “What do you mean you have Autism? You don’t look or act like you have Autism; are you sure you have Autism?” My point is that even within the Autism Spectrum, there is so much diversity that making assumptions usually isn’t helpful.
What can we do to make the world a better place for people who are diverse like me? Acceptance, compassion, education, and willingness to be flexible towards differences and diversity. Being willing to change your mind and being open to new information. Being honest when you don’t understand. What can I do as a person on the Spectrum? I can be patient and understanding when people don’t understand what I need or don’t understand the way I act. I can try to educate the people who are interested and want to help me but I understand when somebody doesn’t want to know or doesn’t want to be educated. After all, I don’t want somebody shouting at me telling me what I need to know. I can try my best to keep an open mind about other people and their lives. After all, if I want people to be kind to me, I need to practice kindness too.