Weird or Just Different? – Reflecting on Stillman’s Autism and the God Connection

“Always presume intellect” – William Stillman

Despite my mixed feelings towards Stillman’s book, Autism and the God Connection, I’m inclined to say his main message is bountiful to share. Being a person with an Asperger’s himself, I feel even more touched and impressed by his brave decision for coming forward and clear some smokes and misunderstandings on autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Regarding spirituality and religion which are also discussed – those are separate issues and beliefs to be discussed, I suppose. There are times where I feel a bit detached reading the book but this is probably (I found out later and there was a similar experience when I read James Baldwin’s Go Tell it to the Mountain) because I’m not familiar with the bible language or bible passages.

Yet, it doesn’t stop me from admiring some of his wisdom. The above quote, in which Stillman claims to be his daily mantra, has definitely left a meaningful impact on me. The idea is basically similar to the Golden rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. It’s simple, treat others as you would want others to treat you. I’d probably say with respect because I’d want to be treated that way and as I believe, no matter how flawed I am as a person, I’d like to think I’m worth something as a human (dignity etcetc).

In this case, where autism and Asperger’s are discussed, Stillman believes that presuming intellect is the best way to do when it comes to people with ASD. He explained that some who have low-functioning autism, are not able to express verbally (they use other communication aids e.g. communication board). However, just because they’re not able to speak i.e. the common and ‘civilized’ way of communicating with people, this doesn’t mean – to put this in a plain way – they’re dumb.

Sure, they’re different from us ‘neurotypical’ people (In Stillman’s words: To those unfamiliar with autism, it is, from a clinical perspective, a neurological difference in how the brain is “wired.”) but apparently some people can’t stand the word ‘different’. Sigh, people. As if superiority and superiority in which is so highly regarded in a society, means everything to bully and abuse someone in order to claim for it. As if human’s worth and dignity can be totally measured by perceptions and a bunch of stereotypes.

Anyway, (before I could rant further) it seems clear for me that Stillman believes, whoever you are, one has a heart and has the right to be treated properly and justly. Presuming intellect is said to be the best way in dealing with ASD, I think, is because we shouldn’t judge that their ability that also significantly defines them, based on what is usually thought to be the normal methods of claiming someone as intelligent or able. There are other means where they can express themselves and establish themselves as a “person” and I think we tend to forget that and get sucked in the normal way of understanding and judging people.

What I’ve understood about ASD is probably limited. But I know that in the end, we’re all just human beings, no matter what ‘disorders’ and problems we have. The book is a good one to reflect important social issues and how important it is to understand that disability is often flaunted around when we come across something or someone different. I think beyond this, the above quote also lends me some advice on the outlook of life as well. It’s very much more liberating and healthier to think the best of people.

*Posted this before in FB but just thought of sharing here (plus I’m currently having similar feelings that I’ve stated/described here)