In university education, one of the things we understand and follow primarily is what to accept and respect within Canadian citizens. When we encounter people, we would assume that they would have the natural capabilities to socialize and work with us; university education is often difficult to go through because solving problems often builds up on top of concrete examples. Some students are enrolled within university but experience trouble adapting to the social conventions and how academia works, especially when these students have a full course load. It would not come from the inadequacies in being independent; instead, it would come from certain handicaps associated with an autism diagnosis. As much as we are to accept people who do have the capabilities to be fairly sociable and open in academia, we should do more than just accept people who had a genuine autism diagnosis. We should make them convene to us and learn some of the things that they would not know at first in university education without making them feel too worried or perhaps upset them.
Autism is a spectrum of mental disorders. We are talking mental health here; autism is usually associated with having trouble communicating with others (CDC 2), sometimes conducting static behaviors (CDC 3), and intellectual deficiencies on social conventions (CDC 4) and academia (UWaterloo 6). From my own observations and my education experience, one of the things I find about myself being a UWaterloo student in tacking Software Engineering full-time is pushing myself so hard in assignments and working on towards my personal goals. Software Engineering is definitely not easy for me, but I like it anyway because it pushes me on to learn some communication skills and philosophy. Chances are I can adapt to them as prudence is one of the core values I find in being an engineering student.
Understanding and accepting people with autism may not seem as easy as it looks. But since UWaterloo itself has a system on equality where every student is equal to everyone else and deserves to be treated the same way, we have no choice but to accept it. One thing that I had a behavior of, eventually where I found out I wanted to give it up, was showing signs of arrogance. I once spent over 9 months on a project where I was putting together a couple of videos meant to be sold as a pack of two DVDs for $15. It did not work out because even if I was able to get a music composer and put everything together, I was thinking in a very unrealistic perspective. I also once did a personal website project in Winter 2015 as a way to show off my achievements over the years through education so that it would increase my chances of getting a job interview, only to find out that I only got three in the entire term. And I once encountered some stress in my first academic term where I was pushing on to get perfect in my assignments; when I had a talk with one of the professors within Computer Science about dropping a course, I kept saying “I can’t do that.” As much as I did show signs of arrogance back then, I am sure it had to do more with my anxiety and what I wanted to achieve. What I was showing was perseverance and determination because I came out of an education in Montreal from a reduced course load to six courses in Software Engineering 1A. Why do we not accept autism?
You need to also accept the fact that students with autism may want to push themselves through with their own personal goals where it does involve pushing themselves so hard. Sometimes even too hard, because I do have high expectations of my own, and I am pretty sure I am not the only one. For example, suppose that I have an expectation where I would want to have friends of mine invite me over for supper in a mall, where all I am finding out is them inviting friends of their own. Assume that I am free from my university assignments, or that I am done with the majority of my homework. I see two barriers to overcome that I would rather tackle them myself instead of asking others for help: lack of understanding social cues and communication skills, and sometimes not realizing that what I just said is awkward. I do this because it would show to the people around me that I am able to self-perpetuate my abilities to move forward without asking for help from mostly the outside. Instead of surrounding ourselves too much with values of our own and moving on with our favourite friends, we should be considerate and ask them what are the kinds of goals our friend with autism is trying to achieve. We should also ask them how, because I did experience social anxiety before, and I am pretty sure with the goal I set forward, I would rather not have people start insulting me for thinking too idealistic. Overall, it has to do with accepting this that can eventually happen with others. Realistic points should be introduced in a learnable fashion instead of too straight, especially when taking things too seriously could sometimes ruin a person’s goal.
What about communication skills, especially recognizing social cues and non-verbal communication? I am usually verbose and often experience a lot of both grammar errors and sentence fragments whenever I write and speak. In addition, when I look at someone showing a very cornered emotion or body posture, I would take it as someone who is approaching me too seriously. If I am in a very serious stance, then I do get that person’s point. But if I am in a very ecstatic stance, then that shows that I am ready to be pleaded guilty. Like I said before about personal goals, I am sure I am not the only one who has communication troubles. People diagnosed with autism may have more interests in computers or music (Autism Canada 6) often because they involve just numbers and letters rather than having to understand the points of a story, as they would take things in a very serious stance. (UWaterloo 3) In addition, would I necessarily understand jokes and perhaps George Orwell’s 1984, for example? Not really, because I often take on the point too seriously instead of approaching this in a casual way; basically, evidence to an abstract idea where it can be bunched up with something else. In addition, would I see myself talking about the use of rhetoric in writings through a class discussion in a brief, analytical way? In a certain sense, yes, but otherwise, no, because sometimes I can be a little too pushed on and often not so dynamic with my approaches to learn new words and verbs. The real challenge is how much I can learn and what I can incorporate into my every day practices, just because I am like everyone else where we have limitations. I am not saying I cannot learn adequate communication skills at all; I am only saying that we have to accept people who sometimes do have communication troubles, particularly those with an official autism diagnosis.
Autism, by itself, is more than what I just described. In a TED video of Rosie King, she talks about how people with autism still have the ability to be themselves in their own unique ways and that we have to accept it. (TED 1) We do have our own weaknesses, especially with how being hypersensitive critically affects our own perception. Even then, I would not completely discourage people with autism, not even myself, from enrolling at university or be alienated within university. I think we should all see it as more of an opportunity for acceptance and possibly a potential. Temple Grandin herself completed a master’s degree at Arizona State University in 1975, and a Ph. D at University of Illinois in 1989. (Colorado State University 1) From here, I talked about three different shortcomings I find about myself, which could be applied to a university student with autism: arrogance, pushing themselves too hard because of high expectations, and trouble with communication skills including non-verbal cues. That is not to say they are too limited with their abilities, but rather some of the realities that we have to accept while trying to raise them to their full potential along the way. So, we should stop criticizing them for some troubles from their diagnosis, and instead, take it as a learning opportunity to reinforce the approaches they have and take action.
I chose this topic on autism because during the week of October 25th, not only was I working so hard in preparation for three midterms and attending six co-op interviews, but it was also Mental Health Awareness Week across University of Waterloo. This topic was rather simple enough for me to express my thoughts since one responsibility is making sure that I keep myself up to date with exam prep and be able to meet minimal requirements in an assignment like this. Essentially, a different topic would take me longer to compose a blog about.
Even though University of Waterloo has its own equity system where no one is allowed to discriminate against one another based on certain traits such as mental disabilities, I still feel like there is a stigma surrounding individuals like me. There’s absolutely no realistic situation where the majority of university students encourage those with a mental illness diagnosis to convene with them either for assignments or for help on life. It’s mostly the way on how individuals are to tolerate certain symptoms of the disorder. Ideally, one should care about it because as much as this situation affects me, I don’t think having it limits my personality too much nor put me on to sometimes trying new things. It’s similar to others as well, because I think there is a potential for people diagnosed with autism to get themselves out there and be successful in their lives.
One thing that stumbled me to write about this was more about my experience when I was in a more troubled position than where I am right now. Even so, I still feel that one of the inadequacies I find, where I am even experiencing right now, are learning opportunities for social skills and persuasive development to enhance my interactions with others and to push myself through university in a more intelligent manner. As much as I do appreciate the uniqueness within me, I still feel that it can be really disadvantageous when I don’t find myself to be in a very potential place. In fact, one of the things that surprised me indefinitely in accepting people with different kinds of handicaps or diagnoses was my involvement with two career advisors within the Tatham Centre. I won’t say what they were diagnosed with; instead, what I’m proud of is how strong they are to stand up to the expectations and how they would feel proud of their achievements and potential. That would be one of the things that emphasized an idea where it’s about time I can be placed in a position with some leadership, just like when I watched a YouTube video back in 2010 of an exclusive talk on HBO’s Temple Grandin. Grandin herself was involved in the discussion as the president of Grandin Livestock Handling Systems. In addition, I mentioned her in the writing where she is a professor at Colorado State University.
What I did to deliver this was talk about three important aspects I identified within me of how I was in the past and word it in a sense that seems to be approachable. I did omit certain symptoms such as serious anxiety, trouble getting some sleep or making up decisions, because I think mentioning those would discourage the point of accepting people like me. It most likely has to do with either abiding UWaterloo’s Academic Integrity, because resources mention that some symptoms of autism are temper tantrums and moments of paranoia or hysteria, or that screaming and yelling at people in general is not very appropriate. It could also be that mentioning so would discourage the feeling the ideal reader should get, which is understanding some of the basics surrounding autism and seeing this in a very positive light. Otherwise, I mentioned them because this was more of an improvise instead of planning things out with an outline, revising it several times, then write a rough draft of it.
Of course, I had to frame my writing in a way where it catches the reader’s attention with regards to connections between my experiences and the real world somewhat. So, I explicitly mentioned my own examples in my body paragraphs and connected them to my main points as sub-arguments. It’s still biased because I apply this to a more general perspective where my examples may be weak to show on how people should accept the kind of symptom I’m talking about. However, I do this since it was much easier for me to use my examples instead of extensively researching online to find more accurate ones. Plus it adds some personality to it because one of the cores I try to satisfy with rhetoric is the speaker, which happens to be myself.
I used several references throughout the text to give out a more valid context and to refer the readers to additional information on what autism really is like. It also helped out with the emphasis demonstrated here because just my perspective alone isn’t enough to reinforce the argument on autism acceptance. A couple of references I used were more for the final touches of my argument because I know for sure several individuals are working hard to rise up to so much potential even after an illness.
TED. “Rosie King: How autism freed me to be myself.” YouTube. 21 Nov. 2014. Web. 24 Oct. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQ95xlZeHo8>
“CDC | Diagnostic Criteria | Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) | NCBDDD.” CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 26 Feb. 2015. Web. 25 Oct 2015. <http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/hcp-dsm.html>
“University of Waterloo :: Autism.” University of Waterloo. University of Waterloo. n.d. Web. 25 Oct 2015. <https://uwaterloo.morefeetontheground.ca/about/autism>
“Characteristics.” Autism Canada. Autism Society Canada. n.d. Web. 25 Oct 2015. <http://autismcanada.org/about-autism/characteristics/>
“Grandin, Temple.” College of Agricultural Sciences – Animal Sciences. Colorado State University. n.d. Web. 25 Oct 2015. <http://ansci.agsci.colostate.edu/grandin-temple/>