The Power of Autistic Minds

The Power of Autistic Minds Mercy Medical Angels

Power Untapped

April is Autism Acceptance Month. Many times, people focus on the “problems” with autistic people. Some examples are not making eye contact, sensory overload and repetitive behavior patterns. Instead of focusing on the struggles of autistic people, let’s celebrate their strengths. Let’s tap into the power of autistic minds.

Passion is Power

Let’s start with “repetitive behavior patterns.” They often take the form of a special interest. A special interest is something that an autistic person has an intense passion for. This passion could be airplanes, a certain Disney character, prehistoric life, you name it.

Special interests are often unfairly dismissed as “obsessive” or “childish.” However, this intense passion can be put to good use. If they’re passionate about airplanes, they could work in an air and space museum, a pilot, or an aircraft mechanic. Say their special interest is a Disney character, they could do an academic project about the character’s development through history or cheer up sick children by doing their best impression. Or, if they’re into prehistoric life, they can excel in science classes or become a paleontologist.

While special interests can seem like a hindrance to socializing and success, they can actually help in certain settings. They can join a club, get in an online group with people who have similar passions, or take an apprenticeship or internship that relates to their special interest.

Accommodating Eye Contact

Eye contact is an often-cited challenge for autistic people. Often, not making eye contact is viewed as dishonesty or guilt. If an authority – such as a parent, teacher, or police officer – is involved, it can lead to dangerous misunderstandings.

For autistic people, the reasons for not making eye contact are rarely about lying. It’s hard to pay attention to what someone is saying, remember this trivial social skill, and process the conversation all at the same time. Alternately, that particular topic could be uncomfortable and they don’t want to face it. In other cases, it could be a trauma response.

However, in some cultures, not making eye contact is a sign of respect. This can tie into a special interest, and used to their advantage if they travel the world.

In short, don’t force people to look you in the eye. With that in mind, it’s your job to accommodate for whatever may be going on behind the scenes.

Sensory Superpowers

Sometimes the sights, sounds, and smells can be too much for an autistic person. They may also avoid certain textures and tactile sensations. When this happens, it’s known as sensory overload. Their responses could range from a massive headache to refusing to wear certain clothes, or even a melt down.

But this seemingly problematic behavior has its benefits. If they’re sensitive to tastes and food textures, they can be a great chef or taste tester. Heightened hearing and a strong sense of smell can detect disaster before it happens. Liking or disliking certain tactile sensations could help the fashion and beauty industry, whether that’s designing or recommending adaptive clothing, or helping with hair and makeup. Sensitivity to lights can help make better offices and computers.

In Conclusion…

Your mission for April – and for the rest of the year – is to identify the strengths that come with autism. In addition to the ones in this article, there are other skills autistic people excel at. Attention to detail, recognizing patterns, critical thinking, and finding different solutions are just a few. And each autistic person has a different set of skills that gives them power.

So how can you help on a personal level? Compliment an autistic person on how much they know about their special interest; they can teach you something. Be understanding about eye contact; they might become your friend. Thank them for their “super senses;” they may have saved you by spotting a hazard.

In conclusion, keep this in mind. Just because someone says an autistic person isn’t good at something often means they’ll get good at one thing. That one thing stems from their indomitable spirit – proving their naysayers wrong. And that is possibly the greatest power of all.

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Stories from Grateful Patients: Maddix

Stories from Grateful Patients: Maddix Mercy Medical Angels

Maddix has Hirschsprung’s Disease. His primary surgeon left Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh to go to Children’s in Colorado. Since Maddix has had 2 surgeries and has been followed by this surgeon, we decided to continue under his care in Colorado.

After hours and hours of searching the internet for financial resources to help with our trip to Colorado, I found Mercy Medical Angels. The staff has been wonderful with helping set up transportation to get my family to Colorado. We couldn’t be more thankful.

Everyone from MMA was wonderful from my first email right up until our flight. The trip went off without a hitch and our visit to Colorado was amazing. Thank you so much for all of your help! We wouldn’t have been able to do it without you.

Thank you again for everything! We would not have been able to continue care with Maddix’s surgeon if it wasn’t for your organization! You guys are amazing! Thank you to those who donated their miles to you so we could fly!

~Maria, Maddix’s mother

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Stories from Grateful Patients: Gabriel

Stories from Grateful Patients: Gabriel Mercy Medical Angels

Our 13-year old son, Gabriel, was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer last October just 3 days before his birthday. Only 200 such cases worldwide are known since 1989.

Between October 2019 to February 2020, Gabriel underwent four rounds of chemotherapy. We were advised by our oncologist that he would require 2 surgeries from the world’s experts on this disease, who are at Sloan Kettering. We needed to fly from our small city in Michigan to Teterboro, NJ, for travel to Ronald McDonald House in Manhattan. His hospital, Sloan Kettering Memorial, is five blocks away.

We were fortunate to be assigned two friendly pilots who flew us directly (no stops!) in their clean, sharp plane. We had a small chest of drinks and snacks! The flight was smooth and quick (just a little turbulence before landing).

This is assistance was absolutely crucial to us financially. We don’t know what we would’ve done without Mercy Medical Angels’ volunteer pilots to come to our rescue. We are extremely grateful.

~Rem and Christopher, Gabriel’s parents

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Stories from Grateful Patients: Julia

Stories from Grateful Patients: Julia Mercy Medical Angels

Dear Volunteer Pilots,

I so appreciate your willingness in flying me to my 2 doctor appointments at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, VA on July 11, 2017. There are very few lovely individuals who would extend their invitation to help a person-in-need to the extent you have for me. Your desire to help a total stranger is awesome to behold. Thank you for your kindness, your time and your generosity in sharing your day and airplane with me.

A car accident in 2002 left me disabled at 39 years old and unable to drive. It left me with a head injury and memory problems as welt as chronic and severe pain. I have had the difficult process of transitioning from a very capable person to one which must rely on others for some of the most basic of tasks; those that most people don’t realize their luxury of doing independently. Giving up driving was especially hard for me. It took away my impulsiveness and left me struggling with dependence on others.

My retired father, Thomas, devotedly assumed the position of being my “driver” whenever I needed to go to the local market or farther – to my physicians at the University of Virginia. When he passed away in August of 2016, I lost more than just a terrific, loving father. As for my mother, she is too old now and incapable of making long drives. Sometimes I see her memory fleeting.

There is one thing I want you to know – flying on that medical trip was so exciting for me! I cannot remember a time when going to the doctor was reflected with a smile on my face. Thank you for the time you took out of your day, away from your obligations, to fly me to Charlottesville, VA. Thank you for paying the expenses that were incurred to fly me, I realize it cost more than a simple tank of gasoline. If there is something that I may do in return to help you and your team, please call me.

My hand surgery on my right arm went well and I have just completed all my physical therapy sessions. I wanted to be able to type this letter so I could show both my “Angel Pilots” what their volunteering provided for me. I now have a right hand that equals the agility and strength of my left one, and the pain is gone. What a blessing to me! As for my neurology appointments, there will always be an on-going necessity for continual brain monitoring, so my visits to my doctors at UVA Hospital will continue.

Kind Regards,


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