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Michele Kurtz, a senior at Rocky Point High School in NY, writes in Newsday’s “New Voices”:
The diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders in children has increased tremendously in the past decade. Now that it is seen as more common, students should become more aware of the symptoms and why individuals with autism act the way they do. As a senior in high school, I am beginning to witness more unfortunate instances where students who are viewed as “different” are mistreated just because others around them do not understand.
In high school, many students are quick to judge their peers. Teenage years for anyone can be very stressful, but some forget to give credit to students who struggle with social and verbal problems. If more people knew about the battle others had, they might think before acting insensitively.
Some may interpret a child’s lack of eye contact and difficulty in making conversation as being weird or unfriendly. These children do not have the skills to determine what exactly is going on in a social situation. Knowing the characteristics and symptoms of these disorders – which affect social and communication skills – will make people conscious of what autism is.
Students should have some compassion for each other. The atmosphere set by the student body can make a difference. When people are open-minded to others’ differences, it makes the learning environment more enjoyable. Positive reinforcement and clear directions can help children with autism manage through life.
No one should be the victim of someone else’s jokes, especially a person who may not fully understand the remarks. With awareness and kindness, people can blend, improving each other’s deficits and highlighting each other’s accomplishments.