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Letter: Important to understand

Published: Monday, May 12, 2014 10:24 p.m. CDT

To the Editor:

Growing up, I remember one of my neighbors was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. Before taking a class on the subject, I was unaware of the spectrum disorder known as autism and the amount of people it affects, like my old neighbor and his family. Through taking a class on autism this semester in college, I have heard lectures, volunteered at a care center and even organized a fundraiser, which have all helped me learn more about the ASD – autism spectrum disorder – community. 

I am particularly struck by learning about high-functioning autism because I think it is important to understand as I and others like me enter the work force. As more and more people are diagnosed with HFA every day, more and more of these people will be entering the work force as well. These people may be my coworkers, and I think it is important for society to understand the characteristics so that we can best communicate with each other without misunderstanding on either side.

HFA classification is up for debate. Similar to Asperger’s, HFA refers to people who are cognitively sound. It is widely accepted that the main difference between the two is a delay in the development of speech in early years of life, but there are other differences between the two, as well, including better visual/spatial skills in people with HFA and better independent functionality in people with Asperger’s. Nonetheless, the two are similar and defy the typical stereotypes that surround the ASD community.

This makes sense now, thinking back to my childhood neighbor. He is roughly my age and everyone just thought he was different before he was diagnosed with Asperger’s. He was not in special education classes at my school and was actually more advanced in some subjects than what was normal for his grade.

This leads me to believe that there are many others out there like my neighbor, being reduced to stereotypes that label them incorrectly, and this must stop. It is clearly still misunderstood by our society, so it is up to us to be aware of the issue so many face and make it known to others when we can so that people like my old neighbor are not incorrectly labeled by society because of factors they cannot control.

Chris Sullivan

Geneva

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