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Little Do You Know About Autism

Little Do You Know About Autism

Sayre Savage No Comment

Catlaina Vrana is the name of a girl I met at my high school.

When I first met her, Cat had a very unusual bracelet on her wrist.

I asked her where she got it, purely out of curiosity.

Turns out, that bracelet was for autism identification.

Imagine my surprise.

It hadn’t even crossed my mind that this stranger in front of me might be autistic. However, I believe that to be a good thing. I didn’t judge a book by its cover and with that, bloomed an opportunity to make a new friend. Plus, Catlaina, or Cat, agreed to let me interview her for this piece, as over the following weeks, we became close schoolmates.

Catlaina Vrana is a 17 year old senior from a small town in Kansas. She was born with autistic disorder, or classic autism. Cat begins by telling me that autism is different for everyone because the spectrum is very wide. One of the biggest side effects of autism disorder is having sensory issues. For example, when Cat goes into a crowded place such as Walmart, because her brain doesn’t know how to separate everything, it can be very overwhelming. She can see all the lights flickering and hear everyone talking all at once. To help control all of this chaos, Cat has her own pair of noise cancelling headphones. Recently, she decorated them with rainbow colors and sparkly star stickers. See, Cat is very creative. She told me that every autistic person has a “special interest”, something they’ve been studying for a very long time. For her, it’s art. Let me be the first of many to tell you that Cat is very talented when it comes to drawing and capturing beauty with her various mediums. In fact, she gave me the chance to see her illustrations for her new book.

As a senior, Catlaina had to decide what she wanted to do for her final project; it had to be something that would captivate her audience and showcase purpose, education, and of course, her talent with a pencil. She choose her project subject to be writing and illustrating her own book called Ella Autie, about a young girl with autism. Cat thought this was a great idea because a while ago when she went to the Auburn Library to check out books about autism or autism spectrum disorders, she couldn’t find any proper stories.. “They were not very good,” remarked Cat. “The part that really bothered me is the part about our representation. [First of all], the majority of the books were written by non-autistic people, or neurotypicals. [Second], the autistic character was [almost always] a boy, which is [reasonable because] boys are more likely to have autism than girls, but that meant there wasn’t much ‘Girl Power’ being showcased. [Third of all], the behaviors [of the autistic characters] were never explained. Yes, we see that Johnny flaps his hands, but nowhere in the story does it say why Johnny flaps his hands.” (Side note: Actions such as flapping of the hands and rocking back and forth are called stimming. According to Wikipedia, stimming is the repetition of physical movements, sounds, or repetitive movement of objects common in individuals with developmental disabilities, but most prevalent in people with autistic spectrum disorders.) Now, because of Cat, there is a book about autism out there, written by an autistic person; and Ella, the main character, actually explains everything, especially stimming, throughout the story. Although, Ella isn’t alone. A friend, Sarah, joins in on the adventure by learning about autism and exploring it alongside Ella. This is what makes the story so realistic. Sarah doesn’t bully Ella, she just doesn’t understand autism.

When I asked Cat about bullying and how people treat her because she’s autistic, she told me that as she got into high school, sarcasm and silly metaphors became more widespread, and as she got older, the more she realized that she needed a sense of humor in order to make friends. Fortunately, Cat is a very light-hearted, fun-loving person and has come to be a very good friend of mine since I first met her. I’ve also learned a lot since I first met her. For example, the difference between saying “has autism” and “is autistic”. When you’re talking about someone and you say “So and So has autism”, it sounds as if that person has a disease. Cat was telling about how often autism is compared to certain diseases such as cancer, diabetes, AIDS, etc. It’s not a disease. Cat was born autistic. It’s in her genetics. It’s a whole different thing. It’s so perverted to think that you could cure her of something that IS her, as if autism were some kind of sickness. Cat says “it’s like ripping apart [a piece] of your soul”.

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