The average person tends to stare, or look away from a person with a disability. The average person is ignorant about the condition that every 1 in 88 people are diagnosed with, which is autism. The average person considers autism to be a disease that a person may “suffer” from, and tend to label these people as “unfixable. ” Like the well known character Lennie, from the novel Of Mice and Men, written by John Steinbeck, people cannot seem to understand the reason Lennie acts the way he does, and they tend to disregard his abilities to function correctly.
The characters in Of Mice and Men, as well as some people in real life do not realize that having a disability does not automatically make someone useless, and with the right support they can, in fact, still think for themselves, and live normal lives. John Steinbeck’s novel, Of Mice and Men, is a story about two best friends, George Milton and Lennie Small, who work from ranch to ranch, and form a dream of owning their own farm one day. Lennie is described to be a “huge man” with a shapeless face, with large pale eyes, and wide, sloping shoulders” (Page 2).
These best friends have to stick together because from the start of the novel it becomes apparent that Lennie has a sort of disability. Along with the description of how Lennie looks, and certain incidents that took place throughout the novel, it is suggested that Lennie has a form of autism. Autistic people usually have problems with social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and have repetitive behaviors and narrow, obsessive interests. Throughout the novel, Lennie displays many of these autistic characteristics.
Lennie can communicate and interact well with George, but only because he trusts him. Readers can see this bond especially when Lennie always asks George, “Tell me- like you done before,” to tell him the story of how they are going to live once they own their own farm. However, when spoken to, Lennie has difficulty talking to others, often stuttering or hesitating. One of the incidents that first gives a look into this idea of Lennie’s disability was in the beginning of the novel when the readers learn the reason for why the two men had to run away from the previous farm they worked on.
This was because Lennie became fascinated with the red, satin dress of a lady. He liked the feel of the dress, and did not want to let go of it. Frightened, the lady called out that she was being raped, so Lennie and George had to run away (Page 42). Another incident that occurred was towards the end of the novel when Lennie and his dog. Lennie loves the way the dog feels, and soon he pets his dog too hard, and throws him in the air causing him to die. Lennie’s social skills and his obsession with soft materials is what suggests Lennie to have a form of autism.
Although George and the other characters in the novel do not realize that Lennie may have a real disability, he is still discriminated against, treated unfairly, and treated as if he was useless. For example, the boss and his son, Curley, do not think Lennie can work or think for himself simply because he stays quiet. However, even dealing with the harsh criticisms he receives and dealing with his autism would not stop Lennie from being a hard worker. He proves this to be true multiple times in the novel when working on the new farm.
George even defends him saying “He can do anything you tell him. He’s a good skinner. He can rassel grain bags, drive a cultivator. He can do anything. Just give him a try,” (Page 22). Lennie Small may be odd to some people, and he may not know exactly what he is doing, but he is an example of someone with autism who can still work hard, live a normal life, and not let anyone push him over because of his disability. Until the 1980’s, most children and young adults with autism were excluded from normal schooling, and some even placed in mental institutions.
These people often grew up unable to speak which contributed to their future isolation. This is why diminishing the ignorance people have towards autism is important. One woman, Louise Zandian, a 48 year old from Wolstanton, suffers from a form of autism called Asperger’s Syndrome. In an interview Louise did for The Stoke Sentinel, she describes what it is like being an adult with autism, “The situation for adults with autism is awful. There is a lack of understanding. It is an invisible disability and employers and the public need to be better educated and trained to understand. Louise also adds that it is difficult for adults to be diagnosed because since most of the focus is on children with autism, there is not a team to evaluate adults for autism. Getting a diagnosis for autism is hard because some doctors may not think it necessary or relevant. While dealing with autism as a child is difficult, dealing with it as an adult can be extremely more difficult because they would have to constantly depend on someone else in order to live as close to a normal life as possible. It ecomes difficult for help to be found, or even a cure because each person that struggles with autism has specific needs that need to be met. In the Stoke Sentinel interview, it said that Louise was a chairman of Lifeworks Staffordshire, a charity that helps adults suffering from autism. With this charity, Louise has worked to bring more awareness and recognition to the problem saying that people with autism have specific talents or knowledge in a certain area, so they can be resourceful, but they just need the resources and support to help them cope with this disability.
She traveled around educating people, and even went to address The National Autistic Society on the launch of a report called I exist. This report is a compiled message from adults with autism in Scotland who tell about their life styles, their experiences, and how and why they would like to be treated. The I Exist report starts off with quotes from adults with autism talking about their experience with it saying, “I am unemployed. I have no social life. I am insecure. ” According to this report, about 55% of autistic adults have trouble making friends because they struggle with communicating with people.
These lack of communication skills often lead to a feeling of exclusion, vulnerability, and isolation because they are not able to say exactly what they want to do for the day, or they are not able to complement someone. Also due to the lack of ability to communicate comes the public’s misunderstanding of autistic people. Research indicates that 92% of people who know about autism were unaware about how common it really is, and 30% of those people thought autism only affected little children, this includes professionals like general practitioners and social workers who should know more about this disability as part of their job.
The lack of knowledge from these professionals means a lack of support for the adults with autism, and without the right support it can also affect the health of these adults with 57% of them experiencing anxiety and 31% of these adults developed severe mental health problems. The next section of the report focused on what changes these adults wanted to happen. In Scotland, these adults pushed for the local authorities to keep a record of the adults with autism in the area. This would in turn help in developing appropriate services needed for the autistic adults, and for future cases.
If Scotland started to keep records like this, then it would start to trend in different countries, helping to spread the word about autistic adults and helping that many more adults to live and manage this disability. What these adults would also like is for their needs to be met. The figure below shows the percentage of autistic adults who would like help in receiving each of these social support services, the most popular being social skills training, and it also shows the amount of adults who actually receive those services.
An increase in the amount of needs met would lead to an increase in the amount of autistic adults who can better control their actions, body, and communication skills to help them to learn to live on their own, possibly with actual jobs, and fewer health and emotional problems. On a different note, two men, Tracy Thresher and Larry Bissonette, were born with autism. They grew up in isolation, and did not communicate well until they learned to communicate through typing on a computer.
Described in Tracy’s own words, autism is like “being trapped in a body that does not work right, and not being able to let people know that it is not your fault. ” When he was eight years old, Larry was sent to a mental institution and released fifteen years later more helpless than ever. Now well into their 50’s, Tracy and Larry came up with the idea on their own to make a documentary, called Wretches and Jabberers, about one goal: to move people’s knowledge of disability to a positive place and to change people’s attitudes about the intelligence and abilities of people with autism .
The three main places they went to were Colombo, Sri Lanka; Kimitsu, Japan; and Helsinki, Finland. In each of these three places Tracy and Larry met with autistic adults who were pursuing the same goals as them. In Sri Lanka, they met with an autistic adult named Chammi who opened up a school for children with autism because in Sri Lanka, autistic children would not be allowed into regular schools. There, Larry and Tracy spoke to the children’s parents about what it was like to be an adult with autism and what kind of obstacles they had to overcome.
In Japan, they met Naoki, a sixteen year old with autism, and all three men, along with Chammi formed the World Intelligence Magnified Organization to continue to spread awareness about autism. They all then spoke at the Autism Conference in Tokyo where they expressed their feelings about how they were treated growing up, and how they would like to be treated just as regular people. In Finland, Tracy and Larry met with two other autistic adults who live in an activity center for young adults with disabilities.
Throughout their journey around the world, and from meeting with these different people and forming a bond over their uniqueness, Tracy and Larry learned more about themselves, and how to manage “autism’s death grip” on their actions, which they found the Buddhist religion to be a sort of outlet for their emotional stress. They examined the question “why are people like us born? ” and found the answer to be that “mankind expresses itself finely in variety as one branch of many on a long diverse and wonderful beauty tree. Larry Bissonette and Tracy Thresher are perfect examples of intelligence working out itself in a different way. Imagine living in a body that would not do what you tell it to do. Instead, the body controls you, your actions, your voice, and your life. There are people who look at you funny because you sound high pitched and slow when you talk, or you often walk around in circles while waving your hands back and forth because of a loud noise your body cannot stand to hear. All that works is your brain; it works perfectly, perhaps even better than most people.
Yet, you are denied the right to live like other people live. Fortunately, most people around the world do not have to go through the feeling that you are fighting yourself in your own body. However, those people that cannot and do not know how to handle the way their bodies work need to be heard. Lennie Small needs to be heard. Louise Zandian needs to be heard. Tracy Thrasher and Larry Bissonette need to be heard. What all these people have in common is not a disease, or an illness. It is the need to be understood, and the need to prove that they are not just a mistake.
Lennie needed George to understand why he did the things he did, from picking up dead mice to killing a woman because he liked her soft hair. Louise needed the public to understand the importance of having the right medical attention. Tracy and Larry needed the world to understand that each individual is unique in their own way and not just a label. Autism Spectrum Disorders has no cure yet, or no way to prevent it from happening, but there is a way to ensure that not only children, but adults especially who are diagnosed with ASD are not forgotten, ignored, and isolated.