“You are special Shelby. There are limits to what you can do.” -M’Lynn, Steel Magnolias
My mother was never M’Lynn from Steel Magnolias. That was the world talking to me. The world always wanted to put me in a box: “You must do this, or you’re not good enough, smart enough, autistic enough…” Yeah, even autistic enough. Why do they expect me to act like Rain Man all the time? I’m no math whiz. I need a calculator. That is not who I am.
My mother was always told, “Don’t put that label on her!” by the teachers and school administrators who did not get me. What would a label do? They thought it would limit my potential. Or did they not really believe I had autism? What limits were supposed to be on me? That I couldn’t talk? Sure, I talk fine, but sometimes for me talking is like trying to paint the Mona Lisa with finger paints and no brush. I do better in writing, I guess, and on social media. Of course, I’ve had my pratfalls, too many to count. Then again, these days most people like what I have to say, especially my friends. Making friends for me is just as hard as talking, but nobody sees that. There are more things I have found out to be true, contributed from autism. For instance, I thought I was the only one who came up with prepared scripts in my head for social situations. I do this very well. Perhaps this is why nobody sees my autism now. They are very ignorant. I run into this ignorance all the time on the net. “But he doesn’t look autistic!” (What does autism look like anyway?) And what do they say about me? “Genetically defective,” “retarded,” “But you (insert social thing here). You couldn’t do that if you were really autistic.” Always things to lessen someone as a person. Always things to set a limit. Well, I am here to say there are no real limits to a person’s potential. Yes, I know about Temple Grandin. Did you know she is also a rock star in the livestock industry? She has invented handling systems used all over the world for humane treatment. I mean, she is an expert on autism as well, but with these limits people place on us, she is not really autistic-but she is. The doctors who diagnosed her said so. And she has a career. What does that say about limits? They are arbitrary, and made to be pushed past. Who is with me?