GUEST COMMENTARY: Schools should teach how to relate to autistic people | Guest Commentary

There is a huge lack of knowledge when it comes to communicating with people who have autism. Autism is a form of mental health that often gets ignored in our society. People today make assumptions of autistic people and treat them as if they are not people. It is sad to see people treat others as if they are nobodies. The fact is that our society is not educated enough on the topic of autism, and it has affected how autistic people are being treated.

I, Brandon Fuentes, a senior at Bishop Noll Institute have personally experienced the impact of being educated on the topic of autism. Before I went to Bishop Noll, a private school, I attended a public middle school. Private schools do not have any organizations for autistic children; however, I was fortunate enough to work with these children my eighth grade year of middle school.

Those who have attended private school all of their life will simply not get to experience time with autistic people and can limit their knowledge in communicating with autistic people. Now, going to a public school, you can be exposed to autistic people and have opportunities to talk with them on a daily basis. However, with being exposed to this, there are also bullies and others who try to diminish these people with disabilities. People may believe public school is a way to educate people on this issue, but the sad reality is that this exposes others to be biased and narrow-minded due to the bullying and name-calling that goes on.

I took a class my eighth grade year as a teacher-aid for the special education department and from this, I have learned so much when it comes to not only people with autism, but also with other special-education children, including Down syndrome kids. This was a great experience for me because I required the proper education to learn how to communicate effectively with autistic people.

I made friends with these special education kids, and I can honestly say they are truly some of the most amazing people I have met. Each and every one of them is different and unique, which is something most people do not remember. They associate them with “autism” and put labels on them before they even get to know them. Yes, it can be difficult sometimes to communicate effectively; however, getting a proper education on the subject can go a long way.

This education needs to start from a younger age so people will be ready for conversations with autistic people when the time comes. Today, professions need to train their employees to know how to communicate and handle situations that involve people with autism. First responders need to know how to communicate with them to ensure their safety and security. Police need to know how to defuse situations involving an autistic person; firefighters need to know how to cooperate with an autistic person, and medical personnel need to know how to treat and talk to an autistic person before hooking them up with the medical technology.

Schools need to raise more awareness for autism. And the overall populace needs to know how to communicate and properly respect those with autism.

Brandon Fuentes, 18, is a student at Bishop Noll Institute who played on the Bishop Noll state champion soccer team. He is a member of the North Township Trustee’s Youth Steering Committee. The opinions are the writer’s.

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