For many of us, education does not end with the walk across the graduation stage at high school; it is in many ways what every graduation speech has to say, “The beginning of another stage in our lifelong learning. “ Some of us go on to secondary schooling, for even fewer of us, we move on to graduate school, or for even fewer, a doctorate degree. Our process of lifelong learning seems to be linked to what we do in a classroom or what we read in books, or training we take for our jobs. I’m here to tell you that I believe we have taken this gift of lifelong learning for granted.
For each of us not on the spectrum, we are learning to expand our minds through reading or schooling, but those on the spectrum, are learning for the explicit purpose of being able to function on a daily basis as part of a society. For those on the spectrum, learning appropriate social interaction is akin to learning about astrophysics, a difficult task we would all agree. Today I watched a YouTube video by a young man by the name of Alex Plank titled “Autism Reality”. He helped me to understand that having to learn the simplest tasks, such as how to interact in a social situation, is a tremendous drain on his body. I liken this to the hours upon hours I would spend working on my final papers during my graduate studies. I recall how tired I was after the hours of commutes to and from work, the ten hour day filled with meeting after meeting, the eating on the run and sitting in front of my laptop until I just couldn’t keep my eyes open any more. By the end of my studies, my body was so emotionally and physically drained, the thought of throwing up my hands came to mind almost daily. For those we love on the spectrum, I can only imagine that this feeling of hopelessness may be a common theme and constant battle. Can you imagine that?
I guess what it comes down to is that we need to recognize that those on the spectrum, my boy included, will face that emotional and physical toll for the tasks we feel are simple. It is because of this, we MUST make their lives as easy as possible, without coddling them of course. We must provide them with the tools to assist in their learning and make sure that they have every tool in their belt to be equipped to make the right call in their lifelong learning. We are given a great charge with our special needs loved ones, for this we must recognize the struggle and aim to make their lives a little easier.