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Autism Society Interview: Her Glasses, My Lens
As I interviewed Molly, I gently removed her pretty, thick glasses. And I replaced my own with hers. It was hard at first–to rest the temples of her glasses upon the shell of each ear. But with every question, the lenses grew clearer. In the end, I made a friend.
As a daughter of an occupational therapist, I once thought I was educated about people on the autism spectrum. But after speaking to a classmate with high-functioning autism, I was ashamed; I had been so blinded by ignorance. I did not know everything. Molly had presented me a brand new perspective.
To begin, I gave Molly a set of questions. I asked for her feedback, not wanting to pursue something she would rather leave unanswered. She was completely comfortable with what was prepared, and we proceeded. She only requested I omit her full name.
My first question was the following: “How do you define autism–in your life?”
Molly’s answer emptied the air from my chest, yet I was lucky enough to hear her out: “With autism you are born with a different rule book than neurotypicals. Let’s think of chess for a moment. You are constantly guessing people’s next move, but you can’t see where their pieces are–if they’re even on the board” (Molly, personal communication, February 14, 2019).
This gave me a better understanding of her struggles; Molly has trouble reading people, just as one would in a game of chess. In order to help her, many people aim to be blunt or straightforward. Moreover, Molly stated: “I can’t necessarily tell when someone is sad or angry with me, so someone specifically telling me is very helpful.” So a simple, “Molly, that hurts me” or “Molly, I’m mad” is beneficial she said (Molly, personal communication, February 14, 2019).
Molly remembers the exact day she was diagnosed, her sophomore year in high school: a definitive year filled with pressure and criticism. As students scrambled to end the 2017 school year strong, Molly dealt with more than hours of homework, late nights, and high school drama. Early that May, Molly’s therapist recommended she get tested for autism. In my interview, she stated, “I remember not being too surprised about the results.”
In a follow-up question, I asked, “How do you feel you are treated by others who know you have autism?”
To her, she says, there is a severe atmospheric change. It’s as if people grow uncomfortable when they learn she’s on the spectrum. Attitudes, opinions, and manners–they all change.
After several more questions, I was able to look in the mirror and evaluate my reflection; I saw my changing opinions and actions as I grew informed. With her glasses, I was finally able to see–to gain insight on the autism spectrum.
My general reactions have adapted since the interview. I’ve gained patience, consideration, and compassion. But most importantly, I’ve learned to not focus on one a single trait nor characteristic. Humans are complex beings–we are filled with emotion, forged in hardships, and composed of intricate fibres. We must try on another’s glasses–see through their pupils–in order to see who they are. For instance, Molly has high-functioning autism. But when I look at her, I don’t see a label or only her diagnosis. I see a kind, energetic, strong woman.
As we concluded the interview, I expressed how thankful I was. I handed the metaphorical glasses back to their proper owner. The interview was nearing an end when Molly said, “I believe you are the most capable person of writing my story.”
Blood pooled in my cheeks and a grateful smile crept over my face. With every question, the lenses had grown clearer. In the end, I made a friend. Thank you, Molly.