In my work as a clinician licensed in my state to provide mental health therapy, many parents of children diagnosed with autism tell me how much they appreciate the fact that I am not only a therapist, but also am autistic. They feel they have a hybrid of sorts – I am a clinician, an autistic and have parented both children with and without autism. In addition, I have been an autism consultant for several school districts over the years so also can appreciate the educational side of things when it comes to their children with autism they are bringing to see me in the therapy setting.
Just like people of all ages can learn, so is it that autistic people of all ages can learn. It is an utterly sad state of affairs that this even needs to be said, but unfortunately, it needs to be said. Too often I see autistic children being babysat rather than being taught at school. When I ask about academic curriculum being used, I am told, “Oh, he has autism” as if this is an answer to my question.
Autistic people experience the world differently than non-autistic people experience the world. One reasons for this difference is the autistic sensory system is quite different from the neuro-majority, which is considered the norm. In addition, the autistic thinking style has differences from the neuro-majority norm.
Accommodations are something provided by law to people with disabilities. It is easy for people to understand physical accommodations such as wheelchairs and curb cuts. It is much more difficult for people to understand accommodations when it involves sensory and processing differences such as those common to autistic people.
Please know that the behavior of people with autism makes sense in the context of their experience of the world around them. Because typical people do not share our context they are not often able to assign correct meaning and motivation to some of our behavior. They do their best by assigning meaning to our behavior based on what the behavior would mean were they themselves engaged in it the behavior. Often they arrive at wrong conclusions. Sometimes they even assign negative character traits to us based on their wrong conclusions.