Being a geek and a special education teacher has given me a really unique look at different abilities. The words “geek” and “nerd” are defined by overwhelming passion for one’s interests or hobbies. In a very similar fashion, “fixation” is a word that typically gets associated with autism. Geekdom is a safe space for everyone to be themselves, and not feel self-conscious, and most importantly, love a topic unabashedly. What gets clinically called “fixation” by doctors, psychologists, and educators, becomes admirable and encouraged within nerdy realms.
When I first started teaching a special education Hebrew school class, I had a great moment with a student because he noticed the hebrew letter dalet sounds a lot like dalek. When my immediate reaction was to suggest it’d exterminate all the other letters, this kid’s eyes lit up. I will never forget that look. At that point, Doctor Who was still pretty obscure in the States. This student and I were able to bond over our mutual love of Doctor Who to the point where I ran into him and his family (who gifted me DW audio dramas for Hannukah every year I taught him) years later, and after a warm greeting, he immediately asked me what I thought of the 50th Anniversary.
This has been a common occurrence in my career. I have worked with students who love Star Wars and Marvel and Minecraft. I love that when I work with them, I am able to use their passion to make learning more fun for them, when at the same time, I get to learn cool new things about the subjects they love. It has gotten to the point where I noticed someone had an Assassins Creed hoodie on and I recognized it because of the research I did for a student. I’ve also learned some skills beyond nerd facts. I’ve learned patience. I’ve learned how to compromise. Most importantly, I’ve learned how to think outside the box in a major way.
Today is about awareness, so here’s some information you should be aware of: autism is not a disease. You can’t take a pill and make it go away. You can’t change the way someone processes the world around them. Autism requires acceptance. While autism is an umbrella diagnosis, and there are certain attributes that are common among people diagnosed as autistic, autism rarely manifests the same way in individuals. You can’t just assume that because someone doesn’t like to make eye contact, they also won’t want a hug. Everyone, not just people diagnosed with autism, has social boundaries. The best way to find out what people are okay with is to ask. Be honest, and say you don’t know.
What I love most about being a geek is the total acceptance within the various communities. People are not dissuaded because of social awkwardness or quirky personalities. People are admired because of drive and passion and creativity.
Side note: While Daily Geekette is promoting autism awareness, we are NOT promoting the organization Autism Speaks, which started Light it Up Blue. If you’d like to know why, click here.
Check out the pictures below of Geekettes rocking blue today to promote awareness! Are you wearing blue? Send us a picture and we’ll add it to our slideshow! Let us know how you’re promoting autism awareness in the comments!