These 8 Inspiring People Will Change the Way You Think About Autism Spectrum Disorder
There are many unanswered questions and misconceptions about ASD, and sometimes these pose more obstacles to the people that are affected by the condition than the symptoms themselves. ASD can influence a person’s relationship and job, but it does not necessarily mean that people with ASD are unable to function in society. Oftentimes, it just means that they have different but equally valid ways of approaching tasks and analyzing the world around them. They may struggle, but they can overcome a lot of obstacles if they receive the help they need during critical times in their development. This is essential to understand, especially when dealing with children, as doubting their potential can really hamper their possibilities. Here are 8 inspiring people that show that ASD does not exclude children from a happy life full of success and wonderful achievements:
1. Temple Grandin is one of the greatest ASD pioneers, having struggled with the condition herself. As a child, she was unable to speak until a later age and had several sensory issues. At one point, her condition was even believed to be the result of brain damage and her family was instructed to institutionalize her. Thankfully, her parents chose to work through the obstacles and developed a care plan that involved extensive speech therapy. In time, Grandin became a decorated scientist and opened a window into some of the struggles that people with the condition face. She was one of the first people to do so and inspired a generation of activists to follow in her steps.
2. John Elder Robinson is another inspiring figure who has helped people understand the struggles of ASD by using his skills as an author to tell of his experiences living on the spectrum. His book titled Look Me in the Eye has been instrumental in allowing people to view the world through his own eyes, and to understand some of the struggles that people with ASD face daily. He is a true advocate for all people on the spectrum and works with several important committees and bodies that oversee policies and research regarding ASD such as the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and Autism Speaks.
3. Dr. Deborah Fein is an ASD researcher with more than 35 years of experience at the University of Connecticut and at Boston University School of Medicine. She focuses her research mostly on early detection, language, and social interaction. This has changed the way that children with ASD are treated and has helped many people become well aware of the importance of starting therapies early. Researchers like her have shown us how early intervention is key for the highest chances of success. While she is not on the spectrum herself, she has become a powerful ally.
4. Amanda Melissa Baggs is a blogger with ASD who writes about her experiences. In 2007, she also posted a video titled “My language” detailing her points of view and drew attention to the world of people living with ASD. Her accounts help those that are not on the spectrum better understand the struggles and triggers that many people experience when dealing with the condition. She has also been instrumental in proving that even when people with ASD have difficulties communicating through spoken conversations, they can still have a powerful voice and important messages to convey through different mediums.
5. Jim Sinclair, an autism-rights activist, founded Autism Network international (ANI) and has directed huge efforts towards understanding and achieving acceptance of people with ASD. Sinclair did not speak until age 12, but eventually became the very first person with ASD to present the autism-rights position and has been instrumental in understanding the condition ever since.
6. Donna Williams is another ASD rights pioneer who was diagnosed as “psychotic” and severely “disturbed.” She wrote four autobiographies that detailed her struggles and allows the reader to take a plunge into the mind of a person battling the uncomfortable symptoms of ASD. Her last book, Everyday Heaven: Journeys Beyond the Stereotypes of Autism, is a perfect example of the impact that she hoped to have: she crusaded for understanding and compassion beyond the feelings of pity or alienation that people may experience when dealing with another person with ASD. To better accomplish her goals, she also became a qualified teacher, an international public speaker and an ASD consultant. By 2012, she joined the United Kingdom's Medical Research Council's review into ASD and its causes.
7. Michelle Dawson is an ASD researcher who was herself diagnosed with the condition. She works as an autism researcher with the Autism Specialized Clinic of Hôpital Rivière-des-Prairies in Canada. She is noteworthy due to her strong stance on ASD research goals. She criticizes scientists who first try to find “problems” in brains of people with ASD as opposed to solutions, regardless of the origin of these issues.
8. Henriett Seth F. is a poet, writer, musician and artist with ASD who rose to fame after having exceled in music and art through her book titled "Closed into myself with autism". While she could not maintain eye contact and communicate efficiently during her childhood, her achievements in music and beyond led some people to relabel ASD as savant syndrome and challenged many opinions on the mental capacity of people living with ASD.
Finally, while it can be challenging to understand ASD in our families and communities, it helps to think of inspiring people like the ones mentioned who do not treat ASD as an impossible obstacle to overcome. Thanks to their accounts and invaluable insight, the world is beginning to understand ASD much better, and is becoming a better place where people with the condition can find support and flourish.