By Madalyn McKnight
Scrolling on Twitter one day a few years ago, I saw a video of a young black man sitting down drawing the most vivid skyline of NYC I have ever seen. The details were so marvelous, and I needed to know more about him and his work. His name is Stephen Wiltshire and he is autistic. The narrator of the video stated that he saw the city on one helicopter ride. I was intrigued by his story and he introduced me to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
According to the Autism Society, there is no single cause of autism and its prevalence is 1 in every 59 births which is higher than it was only a couple of decades ago. Signs are displayed in early childhood and increased awareness of a spectrum condition and early diagnosis all work to increase healthy outcomes. Behaviors associated with Autism include difficulty making eye contact, difficulty holding a conversation, poor motor skills, and intense interests (Autism Society, n.d). Black and Latino children are diagnosed later than white children which puts them a disadvantage. Education and rising above stigmas about health in our community is a continuous battle.
April is Autism Awareness month and I am reminded of how extraordinary Stephen is and how extraordinary everyone who falls on the spectrum is. There is no one face of autism, and everybody does not have Stephen’s ability, but it is considered a broad spectrum for a reason. Everyone on that spectrum deserves love all the same. There are resources for parents who have children on the spectrum or adults who are on the spectrum themselves. With all of the ignorance surrounding vaccinations, it is important to just be kind and educate yourself on scientific research.
Autism is not a curse; it is a diagnosis and presents challenges to what will be a full life that still has to be lived. Wolfgang Mozart and Andy Warhol were on the spectrum but they are no more important or less worthy of attention and success than a recently diagnosed child who has developmental delays. Be a light of compassion and patience for all, and the cure for ignorance through one kind act a time.
Love a little longer and a little harder; it goes a long way.
Madalyn McKnight is a Contributing Writer for the Pedestal Project, LLC. A rare blackbird who has the range and a young black professional with impactful words! Follow her on Instagram and Facebook at @singsongblackbird and twitter @singsongblckbrd