Every year, millions of dollars are invested around the world to bring awareness about autism. Of course, it is a very noble cause because there are a lot of people around the globe who do not know what autism is and how it affects so many lives and families.
But I wonder, do we invest the same time, energy and resources to teach people about acceptance and respect for people in the spectrum? My goodness, it is awfully needed.
I was reading an article yesterday about this group of cruel teenage boys in Ohio who decided to trick an autistic teen and make him believe he would participate in the famous "Ice bucket challenge". Of course like a lot of autistic children who want to fit in and be accepted, this young boy trusted them.
They told him to strip down and remain with his underwear and he did exactly as he was asked. He was waiting for the boys to throw the ice-water on him and film him but little did he know that the boys in question had other plans.
They took his phone and started filming, and a few boys did indeed throw a bucket of liquid to the autistic teen but it wasn't water, it was a mixed of feces, urine and spit.
Afterwards, the victim was too embarrassed to tell his mom about it but she ended up finding the video by accident.
What about the recent story of the autistic teen who had a "Girlfriend" who filmed him while her friends put a knife on the teen's throat and threatened him? The girls took the boy to a frozen pond near his home and persuaded him to fetch a stray basketball on the icy water. Of course, he had crashed through the ice and was able to clambered back up but fell again and was screaming for help but neither girl tried to help him. They even persuaded him to have sex with a dog.
The saddest part of it all? The boy does not understand why his parents want the girls to be prosecuted, he thinks they are making a big deal about it and he still wants to have a relationship with these girls and he defends them.
In Trinidad, we do not hear of similar stories (Which do not mean that it doesn't occur) but autistic people and their families go through a lot of verbal abuse and scorn. Just recently, I was reading an article in the Newsday about this hard-working mother called Helen Ramcharan. Helen has a son, Stephen who is 22 years old and has the mind of a one year old.
A lot of people call his son "Retarded" instead of "Different-abled", they suggest her to use the belt to get him to comply and even get offended when Stephen gets excited and starts jumping and laughing.
One time, Helen and her husband took him to the beach and Stephen threw water on a man and he started cursing in the worst manner, even after it was explained to him that Stephen is autistic. As a matter of fact, Helen stated that people cursed her a few times telling her to keep her "Retarded child home".
So yes, I agree that bringing awareness about autism is a wonderful cause but we should also highlight the need for acceptance and respect towards people in the spectrum and their families. They are already dealing with high levels of stress, depression and anxiety and they do not need to be rudely lectured, abused or mistreated by people who are clueless about their situation.
Someone once said: "The measure of a society is found in how they treat their weakest and most helpless citizens". How is Trinidad and Tobago doing?