Many of you know that I have a son. Perhaps fewer of you, including some who may have met him, know that he is autistic. To be sure, he is definitely on the milder side of the autism spectrum and has made tremendous progress due to very early intervention and the help of numerous family, friends, teachers and therapists. He’s actually quite interactive, will make eye contact, and on occasion will talk you into a coma — not exactly either of the Hollywood autism stereotypes; he’s neither a “Rain Man” savant nor a completely withdrawn, non-reponsive shell.
That’s the problem with stereotypes. They are, in truth, bad caricatures. Good caricatures reflect some kernel of the person they intent to portray. Bad caricatures seek solely to elicit the audience response intended by the artist at the expense of the model. It’s not my intent here to offer anyone an extensive education on autism. I thought it would be nice, though, to let you meet one autistic young woman. Her name is Sarah Stup. She is unable to speak, but she definitely has something to say. It would be wrong to say that hers is a “representative” story because, like all of us “typical” people, each person with autism is unique. I don’t want to say more. I haven’t walked the road that earns me that right. Watch the following video. I suggest you watch it when everything around you is quiet.