In trying to help several sixth-grade boys understand the importance of appropriate behavior, I was grasping at straws for words that I respected and accepted to describe the effects of and differences in behavior. The boys tried to help — “retarded”? “crazy”? “freak”? “loser”? As you might guess, these were not their original thoughts. Rather, they were verbal plagiarism of individuals at school.
“Weird” was a word that they all initially agreed upon. So, we tried to work our way up from “okay” to “ultra weird”, attempting to highlight the stages in between. Jonathon said, “Well, that’s Asperger’s. That’s how you get up to ultra weird.” Mike rebutted, “But not always. We can control ourselves.” Then, Richard said, “a chameleon and a monarch”. Non sequitor, right? Wrong. Move over weird, crazy, loser.
These words are so spot on that I was silenced. A chameleon blends into his surroundings yet retains some of its original characteristics, while a monarch is defined by, targeted for, and praised on account of its individuality. These were the words that I had searched for. These were the words we could use to identify and discuss behavior in a non-pejorative and meaningful manner.
Please join me in embracing both the chameleon and the monarch in yourself or your loved one with ASD.