Matt and Chris talked to several others who work at Hannah and Friends to understand their perspectives on autism. Day Program Co-Director Amanda Buccholz talked about the importance of realizing that those with autism have different abilities that make them unique. “Autism shouldn’t carry a stigma. I love how Temple Grandin explains how her brain works, saying that language narrates pictures in her mind.” Amanda further explained that many with autism, including Temple Grandin, are visual-based thinkers, and mental imagery is key to Temple's success as an animal scientist. Temple can visualize inventions in her head and that helps her to anticipate problems with the systems she builds - an example of how the brain works differently and brings new insights to others.
Another perspective on autism was shared by Maureen Parsons, director of operations at Hannah and Friends. Awareness of autism is key because individuals with autism are capable of so much and wish to be included in the community. “People with autism look for the same things the rest of us do. They want to build community, find fulfillment in life, and live purposefully. What we need is acceptance and compassion. When we go beyond the label of autism, we can create barriers and build a stronger community,” she said.
What do Matt and Chris want other people to know about autism?
That it’s important to appreciate people with autism. Our abilities might be different but they aren’t of lesser value. Everyone is special in their own way!
That autism is a spectrum, manifesting with a variety of different abilities. Even how people on the spectrum approach social situations can be different. Matt is a people person, and loves to interact with others. Chris sees himself as capable, having a great deal of knowledge, and someone who enjoys talking to people and getting to know them.
That people with autism can take leadership roles. Matt enjoys being a spokesperson for Green Bridge Growers, working hard, taking on leadership roles at Hannah and Friends. Chris enjoys interacting with participants at Hannah and Friends: “I’m a good helper and a good support!” Chris also enjoys being another kind of leader. He knows a lot about plants and farming, and is good with chemistry.
That both are interested in building the local community through their work and volunteer commitments. “We both enjoy going to events, interacting with other people, and most of all helping make a difference,” said Chris.
Reaching out to others with autism will help spread awareness, acceptance, and change. We hope all of you will take the step of helping to include those with autism in your local community and your daily routines.
-Matt Coleman and Chris Tidmarsh