Letter: Autism not a DISability

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To the editor:

Last week I contacted a local music teacher to give lessons to my 8-year-old grandson. He accepted Xander was a student knowing full well he had autism. The day before his first scheduled lesson, I received a voice mail from the teacher saying he had changed his mind and would have to pass on taking Xander as a student due to his autism. The music teacher had done some research and decided Xander wasn't capable of learning and taking music seriously because he has autism. He can only accept students who can be serious about music.

I would like to set the record straight. You can't research autism on the web for an hour and decide whether or not an autistic child is capable of being serious and learning to play music. Xander's autism is an ability not a DISability. He has the ability to learn anything put before him and the ability to see beyond the things we see and see them more clearly that we can imagine. He has the ability to become a genius. Look at Albert Einstein, Sir Issac Newton, Charles Darwin, Thomas Jefferson, Michelangelo, Hans Christian Anderson and Emily Dickinson. Many of the world's great figures had autism. Did you know that Amadeus Mozart couldn't carry on a simple conversation with people because of his autism? Amazing huh? This should give you a second look at those whom you deem to be different and make you realize that being different is not a bad thing. It is instead something to be accepted and even celebrated.
I realize there are many myths on the internet about autism, but most of them focus only on the negative. It is very important to look through the faces and realize what evidence is backed up by true science and just where this information is coming from. After all, shouldn't the REAL experts on autism be those individuals who have it and their families.

Society should be focusing on enhancing valuable outlets for the special skills possessed by autistic individuals by offering a means for them to reach their true potential and ensure they have, at the very least, an equal opportunity to learn and reach their goals instead of discriminating, impinging and stripping away choices as you did to a very sweet, 8-year-old child, Just because he doesn't fit the mold that you feel is "normal" doesn't mean he is not and that he shouldn't have every opportunity to become, do, and learn anything he wishes. I wish I was as smart as he is.

My hope is that you, as a music teacher, will open your mind and heart and do a whole lot more research on autism to better understand it. We will be taking Xander to another teacher who is perhaps more open and compassionate, and who knows? He could well be the next Beethoven or Bach! The loss is truly yours. Autism can happen to any one, at anytime. Please take a moment to better understand it. It could happen to you. It could happen to anyone, it happened to us....

Melanie Asbury

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