Cornell University in New York recently posted an article that addressed the concerns related to the autistic population on campus. College students with autism have difficulties that set them apart from other students. The classroom environment can cause disruptions to their goals of learning and making friends. If a person with autism is not advanced in motor skills, they may struggle with quickly taking notes and lose the flow of discourse, which impacts their intake of information. Some people with autism experience distress from sensory overload. They become bothered by and distracted from the lighting or noise stimulation in the classroom.
Beyond these classroom hindrances is the overarching issue of socialization, a prominent consideration for college students on the autism spectrum. Neurotypicals, or people not on the autism spectrum, for the most part embark on their college venture with an expectant anticipation of developing life long friends, both platonic and romantic, and developing professional relationships with professors. But people with autism have experienced frustration in attaining social competence and the expectations of their college venture may be filled with more apprehension than anticipation.
People with autism seek to integrate and thrive in an environment that is at the outset, unaware of their particular set of challenges. The lack of awareness of autism may cause other students to distance themselves from making friends with people on the autism spectrum because they may act and respond differently, maybe even awkwardly. Without understanding the reason behind some of the behaviors that a person with autism might exhibit, neurotypicals may wrongly assume that autistic people are less intelligent or do not want to be friends. A sort of segregation of neurotypicals and neuro-atypicals results from a lack of understanding and acceptance of people with autism, and it’s usually the person on the autism spectrum that is excluded and feels devalued.
To change this, a movemen tat the college started by people on the autism spectrum calls for widespread awareness and acceptance of neurodiversity, the idea that people are naturally wired differently, some with cognitive functioning like neurotypicals and some with cognitive functioning like people on the autism spectrum.
The article posted by The Cornell Daily Sun states that the concept of neurodiversity:
“[moves] away from seeing autism spectrum disorder as a deficit and [moves] toward an understanding that brain differences exist and that different brain types come with different strengths.”
It is a positive and affirmative mentality toward autism, but the issue remains complex. The complexity can be seen from the varied responses that Seattle’s Children’s Hospital provoked when their marketing slogan on local buses implied that autism was a disease.
One viewpoint calls for acceptance of autism as integral to a person’s identity. Whereas, another voice, supportive of those with autism, upholds that persons with autism should be validated and valued, and there is no shame in recognizing that autism is a result of developmental interference in the normal cognitive functioning of the brain. This interference can be so profound that a person affected by it may not even be able to speak. This viewpoint holds that a diagnosis of autism warrants intervention and that acknowledging the need for intervention does not invalidate a person’s worth in any context, social or otherwise.