As I was surfing the web I ran across this. It was apparently written or presented by an adult with autism who was a speaker at an Indiana conference. It offers a unique perspective on the work of those of us who work with individuals with autism.
I was born and reside apart from you. I make my home on an isolated stretch of land just opposite yours across the river of Autism.
It is here that I have lived my whole life, alone and apart from most of you and yet somehow connected at the same time. Throughout my life a few people who resided on your side of the river would build a bridge in an attempt to connect me with your world. I would watch in both horror and happiness as the architect, ever building, crept closer and closer, until finally the bridge reached my side.
I watched as they called for me, pulled me, punished me, threatened me, jerked me and coaxed me, to come to their side. For you see, I was on the wrong side and all I needed to do was cross the bridge. Bitterly resisting all attempts at persuasion, I remained on my side. Defiant, yet terribly afraid I would watch, wrapped in feelings of both satisfaction and self-loathing, as the bridge builder, in rage, frustration and resentment, shattered their bridge of good intentions into a billion tiny pieces and walked away without looking back. This action solidifying in my mind that like a murderer or a mugger belongs in prison, so too must my out of order brain belong only on my side of the river.
I not only was scared to cross but, inevitably, the invitation to cross would be dramatically withdrawn. I knew I was not wanted “over there.” Eventually this scenario would repeat itself numerous times until I knew the drill by heart and my resentment and self-hatred only grew stronger and stronger.
About 8 months ago I watched as another bridge builder began to build a path across the river to reach me. With the same resistance and resentment, I watched the bridge creeping every steadily towards me until one day, it was finally completed. I waited for the prodding, pulling, punishing and jerking that was inevitable. I waited for the hand to beckon me to the other side of the river, yet it never came. There was the bridge but the bridge builder was not always in sight. There was no pulling on my arm and yelling at me to cross or taunting me for living on the “wrong side”. Yet this bridge did seem safer that the others built before it. One day, the bridge builder crossed the bridge. I waited for the pulling and coaxing but it never came.
This time the bridge builder sat next to me and like an anthropologist studying some distant tribe in the Congo, wanted to learn a little about life across the river. The bridge builder watched as I signed my story and crossed back to the other side, not once insisting I go along or telling me I was on the “wrong side”. The builder kept coming back and some times even brought friends. One friend even wanted to learn the language spoken on my side of the river and I was thrilled to help teach her sign.
No, the builder and her friends did not want to take up residence on my isolated stretch of land, for that would have been as improbable as me moving lock, stock and barrel onto theirs. For this bridge builder, the bridge went both ways. Eventually I took hold of the hand of the architect and crossed with her, reluctantly, to the other side. Yet, it was true, I was different but for the first time I attempted to get by. I began to speak the language used opposite my side of the river and try to act a little bit more like those inhabitants, once so foreign to me. I always cross back to my side when my incursions are done.
Bridges are not one-way streets. They are direction-less. Perhaps as you assist us to cross the bridge, you could walk a cross it yourself, let the inhabitant place his hand in yours and allow him to teach you about his world on his side of the river. Because then, and only then will he take your hand and begin to venture with you across the bridge to the side of the "River of Autism" on which you live.
Autism Society of Indiana
P.O. Box 8502
Bloomington, IN 47407-8502
Link to original site