By Kenneth Justice
~ What is normal?
At coffee recently I met with a young mother of a 12 year old boy. Her son is autistic and she’s been instructed by her son’s teacher to enroll her child in special classes to help him deal with his autism, “I guess I just don’t really understand why it’s necessary because I think my son is awesome! I feel like the problem isn’t my son; the problem is people who expect every child to act the same” she said
Let’s be honest, in Western Culture the people who tend to rise to the top of the pack are the extroverted and outgoing; those with charisma and charm. Do you want to be President of the United States; then be charming like John F. Kennedy and you’ll beat your opponent.
For those people who weren’t born with a natural proclivity towards extroversion; the world can be an unfriendly place. The young mother I was talking to said as much, “My son is a little bit more introverted than the other children but I feel like that is okay. So what that he is a tad bit socially awkward at times; why does he have to conform and behave exactly like everyone else?” she said
On a recent trip I took to Boston I met with a psychotherapist from the Midwest who specializes in Asperger’s, “I have four therapists who work under me and we work with Asperger’s clients by helping them learn how to acclimate themselves to the world around them” she said. While I appreciate the woman’s dedication and energy toward helping others…..I’m left wondering; isn’t it society that should change and not the people with Asperger’s?
—-) Shouldn’t people be more loving and accepting of those who don’t act and behave exactly the way society dictates?
—-) Shouldn’t our culture become more understanding regarding the concept that everyone is not a natural extrovert?
I have a couple good friends who have been diagnosed with Asperger’s and I accept them as they are and I can’t imagine ever putting any kind of limits on my friendship with them. I would never say to them “You can only be my friend if you learn how to better interact with me”, that’s downright silly! Yet isn’t that what we are doing when a teacher says to a parent, “You need to enroll your child in special classes so that they can learn how to better overcome their disorder”?
Obviously I’m not suggesting that children should be allowed to behave badly or to be unruly. But Asperger’s has nothing to do with unruly behavior; it’s merely an indication that we aren’t all born with the same personality. If society were more accepting of people with different behavioral attitudes, then the simple fact of the matter is that Asperger’s would no longer be a label that we put on people.
As a Christian, I’ve often been inspired by the message of Jesus and his acceptance of all people from all walks of life. If you look at the dudes who hung out with him it’s easy to surmise that some of them had anger problems, some were very egotistical, and others may very well have been classified as having “Asperger’s” or “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder” ….yet Jesus hung out with them regardless. He was no respecter of person and accepted everyone as they were.
One of the reasons I abandoned counseling and the field of psychology is that I began to develop a growing awareness of my distaste for the philosophy behind psychology; instead of recognizing that many of the problems that exist in Western Culture are actually societal problems…..and not problems with the individual; psychologists instead, are creating disorder after disorder out of thin air.
Rather than tell people ‘you have a disorder called Asperger’s’ wouldn’t it be more relevant and important to begin changing society and teaching people to accept others who are different from them? Everyone is not born with charm and charisma. Everyone is not born with a natural ability to emotionally connect with random strangers.
We are each different, each born with different unique qualities….and that is okay. There is nothing wrong with diversity and I believe the time has come to begin embracing diversity rather than trying to force everyone to look the same.
Just a few thoughts as I sipped my coffee this morning,
Categories: Culture & Society