Autism workshop a valuable first step
Allied News - 4/10/2017
THE lights blink; the noise is deafening.
The volunteer is standing there, trying to do an exercise.
It is hard, almost impossible. He struggles to accomplish his task.
He pauses, frustrated, unable to finish.
And in a moment, many of those in the audience understand a little better what it is like to try to process information or even to do schoolwork when you have autism.
It was a temporary challenge for the students who gathered last week at Sharpsville High School for an Autism Awareness Month assembly.
But it is the world many autistic students face every day.
The purpose of the Sharpsville High event was to help the students understand the obstacles their classmates must manage every day - and, at the same time, to experience a few of those challenges themselves.
And those who organized the event likely had another objective, too - understanding.
It is the secret ingredient necessary to stop the bullying that often results from those who simply do not understand what autism is or what students who have it must go through.
Sharpsville High School officials should be commended for starting the discussion and making the experience real for the students.
Experiencing firsthand what life is like with autism is the first step to developing the empathy and compassion that make life better for everyone.
And it is also an important step for the students as they prepare to transition into the adult world.
They will encounter many people in their lives who have followed different paths or overcome challenges. Having the maturity and heart to try to meet them where they are and to understand and respect their journeys is essential to having a successful career and a happy and fulfilled life.
And being willing to listen to other stories and different perspectives is a quality that will open many doors now and in the future.
So perhaps the Sharpsville students can make a difference by sharing what they have learned.
It really could start a chain reaction of good deeds that changes the school experiences of hundreds of autistic students all around the county.
That is just how powerful understanding can be.