OK. I’ll totally admit it. I don’t really know much about 50 Cent and don’t really care to know more. His name, honestly, only comes up when I’m dealing with change. So, unlike some people who are his fans, I wasn’t particularly surprised when I learned that he had tweeted some absurd tweets insulting a fan for looking autistic and declaring he “dont want no special ed kids on [his] time line.”
My lack of surprise doesn’t come from any actual knowledge or experience with 50 Cent’s understanding of autism, but instead from my knowledge that there are some idiots out there and there’s no reason he wouldn’t be one of them.
A number of people are up in arms and demanding he apologize and educate himself. That would be nice. But that won’t fix all the other idiots out there. Unfortunately, 50 Cent is just a more public example of the vast number of people who really have no clue when it comes to autism.
I’ve seen the way people’s bodies tense up when I tell them Pkin has Autism Spectrum Disorder. I’ve had people tell me they are sorry. I’ve had people ask me if she can talk (they clearly have never met her). I’ve had other people tell me she couldn’t be on the spectrum because she talks. Or because she is so smart. Or because she’s so sweet. Of course, these comments are laden with assumptions: people with autism can’t talk or be smart or be sweet. And Pkin can’t have autism because she doesn’t “look autistic” — exactly what 50 Cent said to his fan.
So I, like many others, am left asking these people, “What does autism look like?” I’ll give you my answer.
Autism looks like an enormous smile and eyes lit up with excitement. It looks like a goofy little girl hanging upside down and spinning around on her swing while periodically saying whatever Japanese words pop into her head. It looks like a focused and engaged kid spending hours perfecting her drawings so she can make her masterpiece.
Autism looks like a former student of mine who used to come to my office every week to talk about his life, share is excitements, and ask for help with his challenges all before he headed into a group meditation session. It looks like a wonderful young man who has won numerous medals in the Special Olympics, graduated from a challenging Bachelor’s degree program, has a great job, and a wonderful girlfriend.
Autism looks like a tween girl who I’m helping perfect her jewelry-making skills, which are impressive for her young age. It looks like her great big smile and beautiful voice that serenades me with Christmas carols and songs from Sesame Street and The Wizard of Oz.
Autism looks like 1 in 88 kids in the US: 1 in 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls. It looks like a number of people you meet every day — from the tiniest newborn to the oldest adult.
Now, if only we knew what idiocy looked like…