The International Writers Magazine: Autism
THE THOUGHTS AND OPINIONS OF A BUDDHIST AMONG BAPTISTS
• Reverend Father Antonio Hernández, O.M.D., A.B.F.
Founder of the Independent Order of American Buddhist Fathers
THE GREATEST BRAINS THERE EVER WERE
A man enters the room. He is a striking personage, and you feel immediately drawn to him. Soon you begin to feel something like a sensation that he is ‘not really there’- sort of like witnessing an out-of-body scenario. He twirls a lock of his grey hair, and his eyes look so far to the distance that you begin to wonder if he’ll snap out of it. He does, right away, and is with you again, laughing, joking and smiling. It’s not easy to see his beautiful eyes, because he does not look at you too often.
Then there is another man. He is considered by many to resemble the first man. He, too, stands like a monolith, sometimes flapping one hand (like the first man sometimes does). Sometimes he twitches a shoulder. He, too, has a rollicking belly laugh, likes humor, but can suddenly become ‘absent’ from his body. He, too, returns rapidly. Or, again like the first man, he might just get up, walk out and never say a word to anyone.
The first man was Albert Einstein, the greatest scientist who ever lived. The second man is yours truly, the author of this here article: greatest windbag who ever lived. Both of us have two things in common: 1. Einstein and I share Jewish heritage; 2. Einstein and I share autism. This article is about the latter.
Dr. Oliver Sacks, a truly great physician, author and thinker, often complains that the public is ignorant of autistic adults. He says people think “autistic” automatically means “child”. He says the public must think autistic children suddenly fall off the face of the earth one day. Autistic adults, especially normally functioning autistic adults, are totally ignored.
There is a circular spectrum of autism, about which I’ve written many times and I describe in my book “No Duty To Retreat” (get it here while it’s hot, it’s lovely folks). But put simply, there are two types of autistic adults: lesser-functioning and high-functioning. The high-function autistic adults usually suffer from Asperger’s autism (a.k.a. Asperger’s Syndrome or AS); it is no coincidence that many great scientists, engineers, mathematicians, artists and writers have Asperger’s. Autism is no death sentence, yet we autistic adults feel rotten about the way society treats us. In and of ourselves, we are otherwise very happy.
Autism in the more easily missed form generally consists of minor “eccentricities”, some social isolation or aloofness, obsessive pursuit of specific subjects, and tics. It also usually entails a sky-high I.Q., immense creativity, imagination, powerful visual thinking and even more powerful general intellect. AUTISM IS NOT SYNONYMOUS WITH “RETARDED”.
Look at this list of names: Ludwig Wittgenstein. Norbert Wiener. Paul Erds. Nikolia Tesla. Jerome Lemelson. Bill Gates. Johann Sebastian Bach. Wolfgang von Goethe. And of course, Albert Einstein. Some names leap out, some seem obscure. But these people changed the world- and they were all autistic people. This is only a tiny sampling. A comprehensive list would require a dozen pages here.
I, your friendly neighborhood Buddhist monk, was diagnosed with mild autism early in 2000. Speaking (writing) as an autistic person, I am humbled and honored to be in such illustrious company.
People must begin opening their eyes about autistic adults, no matter where on the spectrum these adults may find themselves. There are two wonderful people who have websites that can help you learn more:
http://www.isn.net/~jypsy and http://www.geocities.com/autistry/oddizms.html.
These sites are fun, cheerful, informative and just plain fascinating to read, and to utilize as databases. If you or someone you love is affected by autism, by all means these two sites are the folks to contact! Think “Autism Society” only if you need pamphlets- but check out these fantastic sites first.
Now, perhaps, just perhaps, the next time you encounter an adult rocking back and forth, hands flapping, or just staring, you will understand better. There is a full, true human being there before you, an autistic human being, and that human being is as sensitive as anyone, as important as anyone- and very likely ten times more intelligent than anyone.
© Reverend Father Antonio Hernández, O.M.D., A.B.F.
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