The scientific geniuses behind the theory of gravity and relativity. The authors of the most enduring American novel and America’s most beloved poetry. The master of impressionism. The third president of the United States and primary author of the Declaration of Independence…
No doubt, the contributions of Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, Emily Dickinson, Vincent VanGogh and Thomas Jefferson can be counted among the most unique and significant in human history. But few ever mention each of these individuals are all believed to have varying degrees of autism – a disorder the American Association of Intellectual and Development Disabilities (AAIDD) defines as a disease that impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction, communication skills, and cognitive function. Individuals with autism typically have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities.
But as Einstein, Van Gogh, Dickinson and others have shown, that definition does not, in fact, the define the lives of those with autism. And now, as part of April’s Autism Awareness Month, we recognize the unique contributions, challenges and need for increased autism awareness.
In recent years, much as been done to this end. Extensive medical research has led to a greater understanding of this disorder. Increased media exposure has fostered discussion about the everyday struggles of autistic individuals and their parents to light.
Still, too often, such individuals are stigmatized and labeled, their disability used as a consistent qualifier before their name throughout their lifetime. As such, many children in the classroom are segregated from their classmates. Those in the workforce keep quiet about their disability in fear they will be demoted or fired, despite their work ethic and qualifications.
Given the right tools, these individuals can delve into new realms of communication and interaction with confidence. What’s more, autistic individuals can provide unforeseen benefits to their classrooms and workplaces, bringing a fresh perspective to projects and encouraging creativity. Notetaking and study tools like Livescribe’s Smartpen and Texthelp’s Read & Write Gold can offer that extra boost these students need to build confidence and bring this great creativity to light.
I think the moral of this story is to never underestimate the potential of any individual. Sometimes the very things that you and I see as roadblocks are in-fact a great advantage in terms of creativity and individual worth.