One in eighty-eight children born in America will be diagnosed somewhere on the autistic spectrum. From severely debilitating to Asperger’s syndrome, autistic people are becoming a demographic of their own.
In most cases, autistic children appear as typical as any other child. The disorder is neurological, and unless accompanied by a physical disorder so severe the child isn’t ambulatory, from more than a few feet away you may never know it.
Autistic children routinely engage in what’s called “stimming.” Stimming is the act of self-stimulation through movements and/or sounds repetitively. It soothes them, provides something familiar when they feel out-of-place and calms them when they get too excited or simply can’t handle a social situation.
As the parent of an autistic child, I can tell you it takes a while to get used to your son flapping his arms, rubbing his head with his eyes closed for twenty or thirty seconds at a time, or vocalizing his disdain that Brock Lesnar beat the Undertaker at Wrestlemania… last April.
I can also tell you there’s nothing worse than when people stare at him and openly joke about his nuances. What’s more disheartening is that most of the time it’s adults who think it’s funny to mimic his actions or laugh at him.
When I saw this letter from a little boy to Santa on the Autism Awareness Network, a tear rolled down my cheek. This little boy, whose sister is autistic, just wants Santa to make people stop staring at her.
I’m sorry, William, but unfortunately the world is filled with assholes. Some people mock what they don’t understand. Some people stare at what they don’t see as typical. Some People, quite frankly, suck.
Don’t worry, though, buddy. Your sister has you, and to her that’s what really matters. My son is lucky enough to have two younger sisters, but I can only imagine how great it would be for him to have a twin who could be there with him at every stage of learning, every new situation and every moment of joy his life has to offer.
There will be plenty, William. Autism isn’t a sentence and it isn’t a curse, it’s a disorder. Santa may not be able to make all the people stop being jerks, but he already gave your twin sister the best gift she could possibly ever get — you.
Please visit the Autism Awareness Facebook page, give them a like and find out what you can do this holiday season to contribute to a great cause.