In her TED talk, Rosie King, an autistic girl in her late teens, discusses how she effectively manages her life with autism. First of all, Rosie describes what is occurring on her mind as she says that she’s got thousands of various secret words all going on at the same time. She then says that people with autism are often wrongly stereotyped as being fond of math and sciences or acting in the ways Dustin Hoffman’s character does in “Rain Man.” Rosie says that contrary to these stereotypes, people with autism like creativity, have exceptional imagination, and think out of the box.
Rosie says that of the greatest things of being autistic is that she does not have to find her mind into the box and can capitalize on her imagination. On the one hand, her imagination can be a problem at school when she has to follow teachers; on the other hand, it provides her with a refuge, when she can dive inside her world and get not so badly affected by the problems around. Her imagination and insight have helped Rose to work for BBC producing documentaries and guides her in writing her own book. Moreover, as an autistic person, Rosie can relate to her brother and sister, who are also autistic and do not talk. Socially, Rosie says, being autistic means that some people will make friends with her while other won’t. But it also has an advantage because it allows her to pick only genuine people as friends. Rosie ends her speech with a rhetorical question which asks the audience to challenge the existing practices of “punishing” different people and celebrate the unique things these special people can offer.
I have been interested in autism and autism-related disorders for years, especially as I used to volunteer in a play center for autistic children. Rosie King’s story provides an insight into the challenges that an autistic person has to overcome in school and social life as well as provides inspiration for those children with autism who suffer from being not “normal.” Rosie’s example is empowering in that it offers children and young people with autism a different path: the path of growing socially and personally and integrating into the society as its significant and exceptional member. Also, Rosie’s talk guides autistic children towards capitalizing on their qualities that may have deemed unimportant or may have regarded their drawbacks (such as excessive imagination, for example). Also, it undermines the power of stereotypes about autistic people as liking sciences and math, and creates the ground for perceiving these people the way they are not the way the society wants them to look or act.
Rosie’s successful functioning in the society is not unique but is becoming a norm. More and more autistic persons graduate from high schools and enter colleges in pursuit of degrees. These people succeed in academic pursuits. At the same time, in college, their major problem is social isolation and lack of communication. Specifically, recent research by Ashbaugh, Koegel, & Koegel (2017) has identified the need to support individuals with autism with services that increase socialization, because, unlike schools, Disabled Students Programs do not include activities that foster social inclusion, help autistic students build up confidence, and organize special social events to help such students integrate. Ashbaugh et al. (2017) suggest that special structured social planning interventions should be implemented for college students with autism as an effective method of advancing the social skills in these people and ensuring they succeed at this level.
Rosie’s story can be supported with evidence from scholarly sources that autistic people can succeed academically. At the same time, the research carried out by Ashbaugh et al. (2017) focuses the attention on further social inclusion support of individuals with autism, after they finish school.
- Ashbaugh, K., Koegek, R. & Koegel, L. (2017). Increasing Social Integration for College Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Behavioral Development Bulletin, 22 (1), 183-196.
- King, R. (2014). How autism freed me to be myself. TED.com. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/rosie_king_how_autism_freed_me_to_be_myself/transcript?language=en#t-86565.