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Why my Dad is an autism hero - by Thomas Kuzma

20 September 2018

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My father has given up something that he truly loves.
I don't know how to feel.

Last night I got word from my dad that he gave up something he truly loves. My father has to be one of the biggest football (soccer) fans I know. He wakes up at 4 in the morning to watch the world cup, has coached football players for all walks of life, and never misses an opportunity for the game.

This year he accepted the opportunity to return to coaching. Every week came with its own stories of triumph over adversary as he delivered stories of how he has made his team better.. It's been great to see him full of life. That was until a few weeks ago, where he heard a few teammates making jokes about autism, and my Dad made the decision to leave the team.

Autism has been a punchline for trolls online for a long time now. What started as an 'insult' by ignorant, disrespectful, toxic people has now seeped into daily culture.

'don't be autistic'

'Autistic triggered'

'stop being retarded'

There are just some of the quotes I hear from students in classrooms and on the playground today, usually around my students. As a teacher's aide, I have no say in the matter, they aren't my students, so what can I do?

I don't know how to feel.

Recently a skit happened air on TV that depicted autism in an unpleasant light. I had a conversation with the person in charge of comedy at that station and he spoke some truths to me. There has been a 'Hollywoodisation' of disability in several shows, from autism in 'The good Doctor' to the OCD in 'The Big Bang Theory.' He also spoke about the importance of exaggeration in comedy. These arguments are heavily valid, no doubt.

What people don't realise is that many autistic people have a wonderful sense of humour. As a comedic writer and speaker, I have learned about the difference between forcing a joke and natural wit, but when we become the punchline, our mental health suffers.

The autism label means the world to my community because for a lot of us, a major part of live was receiving our diagnosis. We face a lot of scrutiny for our differences, the way we socialises and behave. Have to live in the Neurotypical World is exhausting.

You have to anticipate Neutrotypical people's intentions and meet thier social needs. Who knew you had to ask everyone how their day was? We could channel our energies into our passions, but we tackle socialising because we crave community like everyone else.

People don't realise the brain power that us autistic people have. Many people on the spectrum have an amazing memory, so when you make fun of us, it stays. We know nothing is done, in my interview with Stephen Mark Shore, you read that teachers on the playgrounds only intervene bullying four percent of the time.

It's true that disabilty has been 'hollywoodised' but what you think people don't see is the real autism. What is it like to live your everyday life on the spectrum. Not play for laughs or drama, just a realistic depiction of it. This'll sound silly but not a neurotypical's form of realistic depiction, but an autistic person's depiction.

This is happening; shows like Community and Atypical are showing positive representations that highlight to the world what autism really is. This will help bring neurodiversity into our world, so people with autism and other can start saying....

'this is how I feel'

But as my dad's new proves, we still have a fair length to go.

My dad lovees football as much as I love video games. He has been passionate for the sport since he was a child. When my brothers and I were born, Dad expressed with great adulation 'I have a soccer team!' other than Michael, my younger brother, and I didn't warm up to playing on the field.

I was deeply saddened to heart that Dad gave up coaching because of a comment of autism, but I now realise that his love for his family is stronger than one of his deepest passions. He is passionate about who I am as a person and that means the world to me, but I know that this is not just about my father, that many of you haven't been able to participate because you're different. SO if you do know a soccer team that needs a kick ass coach, my dad is the man to go to.

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