I’m a what? Yes, I’m a neurotypical. It’s a big word that you may see often in the autism community. It means, “Neurotypical or NT, an abbreviation of neurologically typical, is a term coined in the autistic community as a label for people who are not on the autism spectrum.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurotypical)
Being a neurotypical and relating to those on the spectrum can present a challenge. It presents at least two (actually, several – but only two in this post) major questions:
- How do I talk about someone who is on the spectrum and not offend them?
- Why do people on the spectrum get special privileges?
These can be tough questions. First, NT’s who have children on the spectrum can get a little antsy about the way our children are referred to…
For instance, my child is not ‘Autistic.’ That is not his only defining feature. He is a boy, he is intelligent, he is brother, he is a son, he is a grandson, he is a nephew, he is beloved. He may have autism. It is a part of him, most surely it is. However, it is not the ‘be all and end all’ of his identity.
This is much like telling someone your friend is pregnant with a ‘Downs Baby.’ WHAT?!?!!? A baby is a baby. A baby may have Down’s Syndrome – but again, each human being is so much more than an extra chromosome or having some cognitive confusion.
I’m not even touching the ‘R’ word. Seriously, if you’re still using that word in any way, shape, or form… SHAME ON YOU. I’ll say it again…SHAME ON YOU.
When you use that word – you are referring to my sweet child as being inferior. As being less than. As being not intelligent.
I’m sorry if that offends you – but seriously? The ‘R’ word?
I have this poster hanging outside my office (I also have the print on a t-shirt).
Okay…end of that rant – onto the next.
Why do (and should) people on the spectrum get ‘special’ privileges? Well…it’s the funny thing about the word ‘privilege.’ Privilege in itself means, “a right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others.” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/privilege) So…Tucker may get more time on a test, he may have a little extra leeway with behaviors at school, he may be able to leave the classroom to cool off for a bit, we may give him extra screen time, we may allow him to leave a social gathering to be by himself.
You know why? Because we (NT’s) have a different type of privilege, “the advantage that wealthy and powerful people have over other people in a society.”(http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/privilege)
You know why he has some privileges?
Because every morning I wake up and my brain just works. I don’t have to filter. I don’t have to sort. I don’t have to think about how my clothes are bothering me, how the lights are too bright, how that person just ate onions and I can smell them half a room away. I don’t have to concentrate on looking at people when they talk to me. I don’t have to search for the right words. I don’t have to check in with special teachers. I don’t have to do any of it, because I have privilege.
Because I did well in school without really trying very hard. Because I naturally make friends. Because life really isn’t that hard. I may not be wealthy, but my ‘power’ rests in my intellectual ease and capability.
That is why he has special privileges…because I have privilege.