Simon Baron-Cohen, Eric Courchesne, Nancy Minshew, Tony Attwood, Jed Baker, Brenda Myles. These are the autism experts of today. They have researched etiology and treatment efficacy, written articles and books, and presented at conferences. They are sought out for their facts and opinions. They have dedicated their lives to understanding the world of autism. I would be lying if I didn’t admit to you that I’d love to be on that list some day. Such esteem would mean that I am respected and have seemingly worthwhile opinions to express.
Their opinion, like my opinion, is the product of the neurotypical skill of perspective-taking. We believe this skill gives us the ability to step into the shoes of others and understand what they feel, why they feel what they feel, and everything in between because we share a common human experience. I wonder, though, if this common experience extends to the spectrum. Is it naive to think it is? Or, is it arrogant to think it isn’t? Are an NT’s life and an autie’s or Aspie’s life that different? That similar? I could argue both sides, really, but I think that the answer lies somewhere in between — both similar and different. Similar in the ways that all humans struggle through and enjoy every day life. Different in the ways that make humanity so frustratingly amazing and amazingly frustrating.
The spectrum life and the NT life are separate but equal.
I am a student and always will be a student in the world of ASD. I will never be an expert, no matter how much I’d like to, because that title and honor applies only to who don’t have to take off one pair of shoes to don another. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t stop trying to put on those shoes because it is that process that teaches me, causes me pause (and sometimes pain), and helps me realize that many times those shoes fit perfectly.