Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Finding your niche

Finding your niche

Yo, Mick here. I’m the adorable canine brother to the kid playing the baritone.

Red has autism and I’ve taken it upon myself to help bridge the understanding of those on the spectrum with those off the spectrum by demystifying it. Autism is less a disability when it is better understood.

Autism can impact a person in many ways but it doesn’t have to be as severe as many make it out to be. Red is not so impacted when he’s around people who practice tolerance and appreciate diversity – which is why he’s really found his niche in the high school band. Band members tend to belong to the artsy crowd who appreciate the diverse.

Red happens to have a strong attraction to music (many with autism do) and enjoys a level of success as a musician. Being with friends (yes! Friends!) who share similar attitudes and common goals brings Red a lot of personal satisfaction. And, he blends in with his peers instead of standing out like he does in situations involving numerous non-diverse and intolerant people.

People with autism have different preferences and innate abilities. If you are on the spectrum or you’d like to foster or mentor someone on the spectrum towards success, seek groups or people who can help you or them develop abilities or special interests even further. These may be similar age peers or people within the field of their interests already who may even be able to mentor.

Keep in mind that it is a cultural nero-typical bias that dictates friends be the same age. People with autism are very likely to build closer friendships with people who are older or younger.

Friends from band greet Red in the hallways at school and even around town when they see him. Band members are part of a team who practice a code of beliefs best summed as, esprit de core.

Other groups working together on projects such as science can also have a strong sense of esprit de core. If music isn’t the right fit, check out other groups or individuals within yours or their passions.

Friendships are also a cultural bias. Some people on the spectrum may find greater personal satisfaction and joy in doing something they love than in building relationships. That should be okay too!

Perhaps their best friendship is with a canine brother. Know what I mean? Every individual gets to chose their own sources of satisfaction (without harming others of course).

Band works well for satisfying Red on many levels. Band is definitely Red’s current niche. Do keep in mind that niche’s are not required to be a life-long commitment. Red, like many on or off the spectrum, may move from niche to niche mastering each to the level they choose. He may even develop multiple niches but for now, band is the bomb!

Red shines in band as bright as his baritone in sunlight. Those around him tend to feel the reflective glow of his passion for band and their individual and team spirits grow too. It’s a beautiful sight to watch people shine in their element.

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