by Tai B
CIP Berkshire Student
Odd. Different. Unique. These three words have defined each one of us who are disabled or who are also on the autism spectrum. There is so much stigma in our society today against people like us who are what society calls “disabled”, but instead, I believe “different” is the correct term for us individuals. That term, unlike disabled, allows people to understand that even if we have our differences, we also have so much to offer to society. In other words, I firmly believe in the philosophy of bringing awareness for neurodiversity, or this basic principle that being different, not just on the spectrum, does not limit anyone of us. Society needs to emphasize that different allows all people to be gifted with many talents that enables each one of us to see the world differently. The differences in each one of us, no matter what our difference is, society can benefit from these talents and gifts we are all given so that this world can become a better place for society.
Now, being different from others does not always miraculously enable all of us to realize this basic philosophy. Instead it sometimes is a roadblock for many. To quote Belle from the musical adaption of Beauty and the Beast, “In the town where I come from, the people think I’m odd. So, I know how it feels to be… Different. And I know how lonely that can be.” In other words, many people feel lonely and alone when they are different, because of the societal beliefs and stigma towards them and their differences. In my opinion, this is detrimental to the advancement of society as a whole.
I believe the advancement of society happens when people who are different and think differently from society’s norms risk everything to change our society for the better. I also believe neurodiversity is the message of what should be promoted in society instead of promoting the stigma towards people whose minds are different from what society wants or sees within the individual.
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Apple Computer Company’s commercial campaign back in the mid-1990s states in an eloquent and poetic way the same message that I want to share with you:
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward. Maybe they have to be crazy. How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels? We make tools for these kinds of people. While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
Also, think about it: Steve Jobs kickstarted the personal computer revolution by thinking differently from society’s norms. He risked everything to share a new and bold vision for society and now we use personal computers on a daily basis thanks to his new and bold vision. Think about it: Temple Grandin kickstarted a new way of humanely slaughtering livestock by thinking differently from society’s norms. She risked everything to a share a new and bold vision for society. Now her way of humanely slaughtering livestock is used by more than a third of our nation’s food industries.
What does Steve Jobs and Temple Grandin have in common? They have differences and ability to think differently from the norm of society. This kind of thinking is what our society needs now. Our society needs people who are different and think different. We need people who want and will go forth to risk everything to share a new and bold vision for society. This positive change makes the world a better place for all. This is what society should be promoting, different kinds of minds are what leads to positive change in the world.
As Steve Jobs shared in his 2005 commencement at Stanford University,
“Sometimes life is going to hit you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. And don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking. Don’t settle.”
In other words, it is not a weakness, but a strength to follow your heart and hope that things will work out despite any roadblocks and hurdles that might come your way. Instead don’t be afraid to find something you absolutely can fall in love with and have a passion for. With these words given as advice from Steve Jobs, you too can be able to think differently and find a way to be a unique member of society. You have the power to make a positive difference in the world, if you set your mind to it, to find what makes you passionate or what do you love to do.
So, I leave you with one simple task. Ask yourself the following: What kinds of things make you different and what different ideas do you have? What do you love and what passions do you have? These questions will lead you to be a positive difference in this world.
What Will Your Verse Be?
Finally, I want to leave you with a quote that has inspired me to become determined to be a positive difference in the world, and I hope it will inspire you too. The quote is from Mr. John Keating of Dead Poet’s Society, played by the brilliant late actor, Robin Williams,
“To quote from Whitman, ‘O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life? Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”
About the Author
Tai is a student at CIP Berkshire who is proud to be on the autistic spectrum and who is also dedicated in sharing her own philosophy of the beauty of neurodiversity. Tai is also a student at Berkshire Community College, where she hopes to further explore her passions and reach her goals of being a positive change in the world.
She would like to thank her amazing parents, Mark and Lesley, and her fuzzy brother, Pesto (her cat), who are back home in Pennsylvania for their support and dedication throughout her life. She would also like to thank the entire staff at CIP Berkshire, who have given her the continued to support and guide her for the past two years to become a better and more independent person. Finally, she would like to thank her fantastic group of friends at CIP, who not only encourage and support her but also make her life complete. She believes that she wouldn’t be where she is today without all of their support.