Photo by Nick Duell

Charlene Turner, a brilliant Wisconsinite, shows young readers a journey of struggle and self-difference in her book, Sun-Lion, illustrated by the equally brilliant Lily Jacobs.

In Sun-LionCharlene Turner, with the help of Lily Jacobs, teaches her readers the transformative effect of loving oneself, despite how others may see them, turning their self-hatred into confidence so that they may become wonderful, glorious, and authentic selves.

A part of realizing your true self is accepting that, more often than not, people are pretty different from each other, which is not bad.

There is a great diversity in the human experience, so much so that it is difficult to consider everything, and some people default to broad generalizations. One area of diversity that people tend to group into one (with only a few outliers) is the perception of the average mind, the general thinking, and what is usually labeled as “common sense.” 

Common sense, as is the case with any reductive generalization, is not common. What one categorizes as common sense might not be for someone else. You see, as varied as human appearance and expression are, there is a variety in how the brain works. And this diversity is what people call “neurodiversity.” While most people are neurodivergent to a degree, some exhibit more range than others. This wide range of cognitive frameworks and mental perceptions means that some people eventually chafe under society’s current paradigm, where the expectation of sameness is a defining pillar. Neurodivergent people are constantly told to fit in, hiding their true selves so they won’t suffer ostracization. A life like that is miserable. Society must try and change for the better, accepting everyone’s differences, warts, and all, without bias and prejudice so that everyone can lead happy and fulfilling lives.

What is Autism, and How Does It Relate to Neurodiversity?

Not all neurodivergent people are diagnosed with autism; nevertheless, all autistic people are neurodivergent, which means that people with autism are at greater risk of facing challenges in terms of socialization, communication, and self-management. 

Autism does not mean having a disease; only that one has a higher degree of neurodiversity than others. It does not mean they require a cure, only the support to deal with particular areas and aspects of contemporary living, like working, friendships, and whatnot. 

More broadly speaking, autism is a spectrum of conditions that affects one’s ability to navigate society. There is not one flavor of autism, as it manifests differently in each individual, meaning everyone experiences unique strengths and challenges. Some people with autism can blend well with general society, while some need extensive help. No minds think alike, one might say. Autism is borne chiefly from a complex relationship between genetic and environmental factors.

What Can Parents Do to Help their Children who Have Autism?

While being aware that your child has autism and having them get a proper clinical diagnosis is good, acceptance is the best avenue for helping. By accepting autism and the people who are autistic, further understanding and compassion are made. 

Here are concrete ways parents can do to show they accept their children who have autism:

  1. Introduce your child to the broader community. A prominent way that autism manifests itself is through impaired social skills, which will surely hamper how your child engages with society when they grow up. Letting them interact with a community outside of friends and family helps them learn how to negotiate relationships and handle themselves in more varied contexts.
  2. Join with and befriend fellow parents. It is a refreshing feeling to know that you are not alone in your journey, so associating with other parents that have children with autism is a tremendous boon, not only for you but for your child. Linking families together creates a medium for exchanging experiences and solutions while establishing another pillar of support for your children.
  3. Teaching friends and family about autism. Spreading awareness and educating acquaintances about autism helps foster a more open-minded and accepting community that benefits you and your child and establishes a better, less prejudiced society for future generations.