Easter Seals did a particularly good Myth vs.Fact piece on disability recently, My favorite part was the exhortation in Myth #8 to encourage children to ask questions. Aspergers can be invisible, so I don't have a lot of kids coming up to me in shopping malls asking why I'm covering my ears. (I really wish they'd turn the music down in women's clothing stores.) I certainly don't advocate stopping people with disabilities in the street to inquire about the intimate details of their lives. But since I do a lot of public speaking, I am in a sense asking for, well, ASKING!
So there I am, trying to help people organize their paperwork or interact with the school district to get services for their kids with disabilities, and the room suddenly goes quiet when someone asks a question the scares the rest of the audience: "What do you think caused your autism?," "Your kid is speech-delayed, you never were, do you seriously think he can have a quality of life anything like yours?" Lively discussion always ensues, and woe to the casual questioner who thinks they can escape the FULL airing of my opinion. Now, I can't vouch for my audience, and I admit sometimes I go home feeling pretty tired, but my feelings are not easily hurt. (Not to say I'm completely impossible to offend, but my social impairments often send insults and sarcasm flying over my head.) How could any non-autistic person expect to understand an autistic frame of reference they don't share if they don't just ask? So they do, and I answer the best I can. In the long run, no one really gets hurt, and sometimes someone even gets help, if merely in the form of better understanding.