By Trevor Pacelli
We all know about the heavily blunt themes of prejudice and racism in Zootopia, and it’s no secret that the treatment between predators and prey disturbingly parallels our own society. Say whatever you can about the treatment between the police and Blacks, or politicians and immigrants, or virtually any religious group against a much greater body, but the one piece of unfair prejudice I would like to discuss relates to how everybody has some form of unfair opinions about people with autism.
Every day I come across people who look down upon me because they know that I am “different” from everybody else. Even if somebody is trying to be accepting and friendly to me, they still set me aside to give more attention to their other “normal” friends. I will admit, I am not much of a talker, and socializing is relatively difficult for me. You also could call me “not the most fun talker,” not to be self-degrading. But from my experiences out in a crowd, I often feel that although people may feel they’re accepting me and giving me a fair treatment, they really just say a few brief sentences, get uncomfortable, then move on to chat with someone else. Now, this doesn’t happen all the time, but it has still been common with many of my interactions. Despite people’s self-assumptions, they can still unintentionally shun a person with autism because of their blatant differences.
Even I myself have been prejudiced towards others on the spectrum. I admit that I have quite often avoided interaction with people who I knew were mentally disabled. Like most others, I felt my most comfortable around people who had no mental disabilities. Even if I tried to look like I was accepting of people with autism, Asperger’s, Down Syndrome, or anything related to such, you could probably tell I was my most enthusiastically social around “normal” people.
Yes, I admit. Even we autistics are guilty of unintended prejudice against autistics.
It’s just like in Zootopia. Judy Hopps felt that with all the hatred and prejudice that the prey were pressing onto the predators, that she was different in the way she interacted with them. She felt that working with Nick Wilde on her case proves how accepting she was relative to everyone else. But it turns out she was still just as prejudiced as all other prey in Zootopia, as she still carried around fox repellant out of fear that all foxes were bullies out to get her. We all are guilty of prejudice, no matter what we may think.
But there’s one absolutely crucial point to keep in mind:
Six-Word Lessons on Female Asperger Syndrome, Lesson #32: First Impressions Rarely Reveal True Character.
After working with Nick Wilde for some time, and learning more about him, Judy learns that this fox is not quite as mean or deceptive as he looked upon first impression. Just ask either of my parents what they thought about raising a child with autism, and they could easily tell you this:
Six-Word Lessons for Dads with Autistic Kids, Don’t Underestimate His Life Skills Abilities.
They probably didn’t think I would be able to drive, but I got my license at 16. They probably didn’t think I would ever go to college, but I did, and graduated with honors. Hearing one thing about a similar person with me does not automatically conclude what future I am destined to hold. The same goes to everybody else simplified to a label:
Not all blondes are dumb. Not all Asians are mathematical geniuses. Not all Christians are street protestors. Not all single mothers are emotionally distressed. Not all savants are hopeless in functioning in society. We are a beautifully diverse world with cultures as varied as the animal kingdom, one where no two people are ever the same. It’s time we realize how different we all are and see every individual as unique.
Read full movie review of Zootopia.
Thanks so much for your time in reading! My book Six-Word Lessons on Growing Up Autistic is available on Amazon, Kindle, and iBooks. -- Trevor Pacelli, TrevorsViewonHollywood.com
By Patty Pacelli
Independent living is an important goal for young adults with autism, and studies have shown that it can lead to better employment success. The process can start early in life, and there are several things to help meet this goal while still living at home.
Your Child as a Roommate - During your child's late teens or early twenties, if still living at home, treat your student more like a roommate and have expectations of them as if they were living on their own, such as doing their own laundry, keeping their own room or space clean (or not), buying their own food and toiletries, and anything else that had been provided when they were younger. To do this, they will need an allowance or "salary" of some kind, which will help them learn (with your instruction) to manage money. Have them pay you rent, and at least some of their car or transportation expenses, and some of their personal purchases. Along with this, get them started with a simple budgeting spreadsheet to manage their bills, purchases, and even some savings. We did this with both of our children, regardless of an autism spectrum diagnosis.
Moving Out - When your child does move out on their own, give them a lot of encouragement to do things their own way, but be available to help them as well. Depending on your relationship and your child, you may need to back off a little more than you'd like, or you may have to force them to do more on their own. Our son was very excited to be on his own, and wanted to arrange his items in his new place by himself, but some young adults might be too dependent on their parents, and the parents might need to push them to do more on their own. We tried to find the balance between making sure Trevor was living successfully and keeping safe, while letting him do things his way, even if he made some mistakes or it wasn't perfect.
Living independently, whether in stages while still at home, or in their own place, leads to greater self-esteem, confidence, household skills, knowledge and comfort with social situations, especially when living with roommates. This leads to less stress and more confidence and ability to learn new skills in the workplace.
For more about autism and preparing your child for employment, check out my book, Six-Word Lessons for Autism-Friendly Workplaces - Patty Pacelli
By Trevor Pacelli
Far too frequently I get the idea that because I have slower speech and a lack of understanding towards other people, I can’t be of significant help to them. But this Memorial Day, I was proven wrong about myself.
You see, I was sitting on a park bench in a forested area near my home. All seemed fine, until I suddenly started hearing high-pitched screaming and crying. I ran over to see the source of the mayhem, and I saw two women who clearly didn’t know each other, one with two huskies, and one sitting on the ground, a smaller black dog held tight in her arms. I asked what happened, and they told me that one of the larger dogs had bitten the smaller dog on the neck. They told me to call 911, which I did. The problem though? These types of emergency services don’t help dogs. The woman with the larger dogs said that she would help out the smaller dog, but needed to go back home to get something. So as she was walking away, she shouted out her name and phone number to me before I could get a chance to get it right. By the time she was gone, the other woman, I’ll call her Kayla, realized that she was just trying to escape the situation. Then her injured dog, I’ll call her LBD (Little Black Dog), ran out of her arms and into one of the bushes, her front left leg clearly damaged. Kayla started to freak out, as she took it as LBD losing trust in her as an owner.
Kayla’s next mode of action was to take LBD to the pet hospital, which in our circumstance, was at PetSmart. She asked me to come with her as a witness, and I quickly said yes. I got into her car, and the whole time, she was still sobbing and panicking over thinking she was a terrible dog owner. I kept affirming to her that she did nothing wrong, from what I could tell from the situation. So after a drive that felt longer than it really was, Kayla brought LBD into the hospital wing of PetSmart. I sensed her trauma, so as we were sitting in the waiting room for the doctor to come and check up on LBD, all I did was pat her back to let her know that she was not alone.
Then the doctor came to check up on LBD, which meant he had to take her away from Kayla, definitely not easy for her to accept. Thus, we waited as they checked on the damage done by LBD, and at this point, I was mainly repeating to Kayla that she did nothing wrong, and that it would be unlikely that LBD would dislike her now. But Kayla was more concerned about LBD being able to go for walks, after facing such trauma with a larger dog. Then the doctor came out, and he told her that LBD had quite a bit of swelling and damage to her back and front left legs, and that they would have to take some X-rays. I decided it was good to ask how the trauma would affect a small animal like LBD, and I believe from what I can remember that he said it would likely be traumatic at first, but would heal over time.
At this point, Kayla decided that she didn’t need me around anymore, as she had called her boyfriend to come over and help her out. So she agreed to give me a ride home as she waited for the X-rays to develop. As we got into Kayla’s car, I then asked her, “Can I pray for you?” Now, I am of strong Christian belief, so praying is a part of my way of helping others in need. So I said a quick prayer for Kayla, and she drove me home. As she dropped me off, she was ever so thankful that I was there to help her. Later that day, I got a text message from Kayla (I gave her my phone number in case she needed my eye witness later on) giving the status report on LBD. She even texted me a video/status report that I assume she sent out to her other Facebook friends, of LBD on her car seat. I texted back saying I was going to continue praying for her.
I learned something very important about myself from all this. Just because I have autism does not mean I can never help somebody in need. Nobody has to do anything elaborate to help somebody else, it only requires giving your time to let somebody else know that they’re not alone. It’s not a matter of how good of a speaker I was, I understood the situation and knew ahead of time how to verbalize what happened, so talking my way through it just came naturally.
So again, autism does not mean incapable to love or show a random act of kindness. It doesn’t even mean a limited ability to help others. Anyone can aid anyone in need, all it takes is a simple reminder that we are not alone.
Inspiration for Life with Autism
This blog has a variety of articles about people living life with autism, and topics and ideas that can help in the journey. Guest bloggers are welcome. Inspired by Trevor, a young adult film critic, photographer and college graduate on the autism spectrum.