In the U.S., people are very big on telling everyone to “be yourself!” They preach being open and honest about how you feel and to express yourself openly. They like to say that everyone is unique and that we all have qualities to share. There’s a constant intolerance for people who are intolerant of other people’s ideas, beliefs, religions, etc. Funny, isn’t it? They preach tolerance of everything, but only if it is the tolerance that they have. They don’t truly mean tolerance of everything, because if they did, things would be very different.
Take a look at a child with Autism. Little Man is more than happy to sit in the living room and roll his circularly shaped toys across the floor, pick them up, and do it again. He does this alone and will only acknowledge you if you say his name or if you try to join in. This, is who he is. This is what he likes to do (among other things, of course). But when he got diagnosed with ASD, the psychologist was very concerned about how he liked to play by himself, didn’t acknowledge others, and made little to no eye contact. In a country of acceptance, we have a lot of “well…except in that case” scenarios. He is allowed to be who he is, as long as he undergoes intensive therapy to change himself.
People will read this and say “well, he has to undergo therapy so that he can function in normal society.” Really? There are cases where no amount of therapy makes them capable of functioning in our society, and yet we shove it down their throats. Am I saying there should be no therapy? That they should be allowed to sit there and bang their heads against the wall, bite themselves, and other forms of destructive behavior? No. I am simply saying that it is a constant struggle to fit someone into the “norm” model, who does not fit into the “norm” model. Should none verbal children undergo speech therapy? Yes, within reason. I don’t think sitting there yelling at a kid and insisting they answer you is a good way to help them. But trying different avenues, even mixing them up until they are able to communicate, is essential. What’s the difference? I don’t demand that my son speak before I give him a toy, because he literally can’t speak. I do, however, hold the toy, say “more” and move my hands in the sign language move for the word “more.” I don’t “force” him to talk, I let him communicate on his own terms. But then, this too, can be seen as trying to force him into the mold, not allowing him to be who he is without restriction. But how “you” can you be, if you cannot even tell someone you are thirsty, or hungry, or that you have to pee? Communication is the way in which he can insure, for himself, that his needs are met. It puts the power in his hands.
I just can’t help but feel like the different therapies are there to “fix” this problem or that problem. It’s like we are training him to function in society, making him go against himself on a daily basis, so that he can function in society. But what if he never gets to function in society? What if he is forever stuck at home because he can’t find a job, go to school, or otherwise? Then what was all of the extensive “therapy” for? Everyone talks about early intervention this and early intervention that, but it took 4 months just to get him diagnosed. That isn’t very rushed, is it?
I guess what I am trying to say, very in-eloquently, is that the whole thing is hypocrisy. We want him to be himself, but that’s only if he does what we say in the way that we say to do it. We tell him not to spin things, and give him a different toy to play with. But why? That spinning wasn’t hurting anybody, it didn’t interfere with anyone’s life. It doesn’t cause others pain or displeasure. The spinning is enjoyable to him, something we all need to do for ourselves. What if he becomes an adult and has become so efficient at spinning different things that he ends up working for Cirque Du Soleil and is asked to spin all over the world? Wouldn’t we all feel like jerks? What if by spinning things, he discovers a new mathematical equation as a teenager? And is asked to write a book and wins the Nobel prize? Ok that might be a little over the top, or is it? Who knows? We stop all of the behaviors that society doesn’t like, and exchange it for tolerated behaviors. But those same behaviors may have a purpose, a reason, but we would never know. What if we truly let them be themselves?
What would happen if any of us were TRULY allowed to be ourselves? Not just the “yourself” that society encourages.