Autism is generally typified as a socially isolating disorder. People who live on the spectrum often have limited social abilities, and as a result tend to prefer time on their own as opposed to that with others.
For the people who don’t fit this stereotype but nevertheless live with the autism label, this can cause some very confusing interactions. Cue Will McCall.
Will is an autistic thirteen-year-old boy who is described by family and friends as incredibly outgoing and sociable. While many would expect him to have difficulty interacting with others as a result of his autism, this is actually an area in which he excels, as demonstrated recently during the wedding of his babysitter Melissa Newman.
Will was given the special opportunity to act as one of her junior groomsmen and even recited John Lennon lyrics for the audience during the reception in front of her guests. The two share a long history, going back to when he was first diagnosed and she worked as a special education aide in his early childhood center. Over the years, they’ve formed a particularly close bond. Melissa has helped Will face the obstacles Autism brings him.
While social interactions do not bother Will in the slightest, the word “Autism” does. Will is high-functioning so he not only understands why he is sometimes treated differently, but resents it. His mother says that “Unlike other kids with autism, he loves being around people. Typical peers are what he really longs for, to be and act and be with typical peers.”
This is why his inclusion in Newman’s wedding was so profoundly important, not just to Will but to his entire family. He’s a boy like any other, proud to participate in such a special event. His autism does not limit him, but adds to the incredible personality he already has. Newman says that it gives him a unique perspective, and helps him form close relationships because he can remember the most minute details about a person he’s just met.
Will is an excellent example of just how important inclusion is. While autism is certainly a facet of his life, it is not the only one. He is a person independent of his diagnosis, and deserves the chance to be treated as such. Furthermore, he exemplifies the fact that no two people, even if they share the same diagnosis, are the same.
Autism, just like any other personality quality, is different from case to case. In the case of Newman’s wedding, Will demonstrated just that as he captivated the wedding party with his goofy and endearing heart, paying tribute to the friend that’s always recognized him as a person and not a disability.
Written by Sara Power, Fordham University