Today's TED Talk has an important, moving message. As this autism mom says, "There is no need to be an expert nor do anything heroic to include someone. We just need to be there...we simply need to be close. And if we are afraid of something or we don't understand something, we need to ask." It's seven minutes, and well worth it. Note: the talk is in Spanish with English subtitles.
The TED Talk that changed how I saw my son
“Today I have just one request. Please don’t tell me I’m normal.” These are the first words of Faith Jegede Cole’s TED Talk, and they changed me forever.
It was December 2012, and I was struggling to come to terms with my son’s recent autism diagnosis. I came across a link to Faith’s brisk talk — I wasn’t yet part of the TED team — and I decided to see what she had to say. When I was done, I scrubbed to the beginning to watch it over again. Then I sent the link to my wife.
When your child is diagnosed with autism, you’re inundated with reports and evaluations outlining the struggles your child is going to face, how difficult their life will be and all the work you have ahead of you. You immerse yourself in a pool of deficits wondering if you’ll ever climb out again, or whether you’ll learn to swim.
But here was someone who wasn’t framing the conversation in terms of deficits. Instead, Faith was talking about her incredible brothers and how their autism made them unique and special. Here was someone saying it’s not just OK to be different, it’s better. Here was someone telling me to look at my son in a different light, to notice all his gifts and potential.
Since then, I’ve come to think of Faith’s talk as my introduction to the neurodiversity movement, which celebrates diverse minds and ways of being — and understands, as Faith says, “Everyone’s got a gift inside of us, and in all honesty, the pursuit of normality is the ultimate sacrifice of potential.”
http://www.ted.com/talks/steve_silberman_the_forgotten_history_of_autism From the TED website: "Decades ago, few pediatricians had heard of autism. In 1975, 1 in 5,000 kids was estimated to have it. Today, 1 in 68 is on the autism spectrum. What caused this steep rise? Steve Silberman points to 'a perfect storm of autism awareness' — a pair of psychologists with an accepting view, an unexpected pop culture moment and a new clinical test. But to really understand, we have to go back further to an Austrian doctor by the name of Hans Asperger, who published a pioneering paper in 1944. Because it was buried in time, autism has been shrouded in misunderstanding ever since."
A proper and accurate understanding of the history of autism will lead to greater acceptance and, one can hope, better services and support.
This is one of those great talks that transcends autism, and yet is so relevant to the conversation about autism. Rosie King has autism. Her brother and sister have autism. What she's asking is that we re-think what autism is and, more importantly, why "normal" is so important to so many of us.
"But if you think about it, what is normal? What does it mean? Imagine if that was the best compliment you ever received. 'Wow, you are really normal.'"
Instead, she says, the "compliments are, 'you are extraordinary' or 'you step outside the box.' ... So if people want to be these things, why are so many people striving to be normal?"
Regardless of your connection to autism, this TED Talk is a clarion call to celebrate uniqueness. It's six minutes of awesome. Watch and share, please.
The period after C's autism diagnosis was troublesome: I experienced emotions ranging from grief to confusion, anger to denial. Most of all, I felt an overwhelming sense of loss. A few months later, though, I came across Faith Jegede's TED talk, "What I've learned from my autistic brothers."
After watching this brief video, I hit replay two more times — something I rarely do (who has time?). Something in her words kept tugging at me.
And there it was, this idea, so simply stated: "Everyone's got a gift inside of us, and in all honesty, the pursuit of normality is the ultimate sacrifice of potential. The chance for greatness, for progress and for change dies the moment we try to be like someone else."
I've watched this talk many times since, and when things are especially difficult, I reflect on this passage in particular: "...beyond the tantrums and the frustration and the never-ending hyperactivity was something really unique: a pure and innocent nature, a boy who saw the world without prejudice, a human who had never lied. Extraordinary."