I'm stealing a Temple Grandin quote for the title of this blog post, because it is apt.
I realised today how learning I have a mental disability has made me more accepting of other people with mental disabilities, or mental differences maybe I should call them.
I had always felt exceedingly uncomfortable around people who were mentally different. All that flapping and involuntary noises and just being generally abnormal just made me feel all weird inside.
But then I learned that I have Asperger's, and I learned that a lot of what i do and what I consider perfectly normal, other people also consider weird. Things like flapping my hands when I get excited, striding along talking to myself, or talking to people who are not there (although I only do this when I'm along because, let's face it - that one IS pretty weird), not coping well with changes in plan, and almost panicking when things don't go right - all those things are not what most people do.
It really hit me today. I was walking my dog in the park and I fell in behind a couple of men. It was hard to tell from behind but one seemed to be in his late 40s and was walking calmly behind the other one, who was a good deal younger - probably late teens or early twenties. The first thing that struck me was that the younger man was touching everything. First he would stroke his hand along a park bench, then touch a tree, playing with a stray low branch, then he bent down and touched the grass. The second thing that struck me was that he was clearly mentally different - most people do not do this.
But instead of making me feel uncomfortable - it just made me think "Aw how sweet - he is clearly loving being out in the park and is experiencing everything in full measure." I mean, if it makes him HAPPY to be touching everything he sees, who am I to think it's weird?