People buy metal detectors in hopes of trying to find precious, rare objects that get lost, discarded or carelessly tossed aside by others. Emma was hoping to take advantage of other people's carelessness. Maybe Emma is right. Maybe there is treasure that lies just underneath her feet, undiscovered by so many who continually walk over top of it, never taking the time to dig deeper and discover the rare find that lies just below the surface, only concerning themselves with what they can "see". Emma's optimism, her determination and her childhood innocence makes me believe we need a stronger metal detector.
There was a boy in my high school that dressed in black from head to toe, every single day. Needless, to say, he was cruelly referred to as Johnny Cash (sans a country recording contract and pretty June Carter Cash by his side). Maybe the routine of black made this boy feel safe in a school full of kids who didn't understand him and who didn't bother to try. Had this dressed in black student been in high school today, he would have been considered "goth", but sadly, still "weird". Although Ryan wears an assortment of colors, I have no doubt that his standard 6 outfits that he rotates day in and day out gets noticed by other students and that this routine also makes him "weird" or "dorky". Ryan likes the comfort of the clothes he wears and knowing which shirt goes with which pair of shorts is just one less decision he has to make in a long day filled with varying choices and decisions. Ryan is doing 7th grade math in 6th grade. Clearly, not worrying or wasting brain power on what to wear is working for him.
Another boy in my high school English class was often found reading his Greek Mythology book lying on his back on the floor which apparently he found much more appealing than sitting at his desk like the "normal" kids. After 52 minutes of learning about Zeus and his BFF's on Mount Olympus, the "normal" kids would exit class with comments such as, "Did you see that weirdo?", "He just does that for attention." or "What the he** is wrong with that freak?" echoing off the school hallway walls loud enough for the boy who loved the floor, to hear. In the meantime, the boy gathered up his books, seemingly unconcerned by the meanies' comments, and quickly dashed down the hallway....alone. As far as I know, Ryan sits in his desk at school, however, he often studies his flashcards upside down on the couch and although I worry about him breaking his neck, Ryan assures me that "being upside down helps me concentrate". Maybe, the boy from my high school English class and Ryan have it right. Maybe SAT scores would skyrocket if kids laid on their backs on the floor of the testing room or better yet, took the tests hanging upside down. Maybe "our" way has been wrong all along.
A girl who sat in my high school Algebra class would rock in her desk from the instant the bell rang to signal the beginning of class to when the bell rang signaling class had come to an end. The rumor was this girl was rocked so much as a baby, that she still enjoyed the soothing rocking motion as a teenager. It didn't matter that there was a "legit" reason this girl rocked back and forth and back and forth, her rocking behavior still made her "weird". Ryan has never been a rocker, but, when I brush Ryan's hair his hand flicks back and forth, back and forth because this flicking distracts him from the "terrible pain" the hair brush causes to his head. Algebra caused me and my head terrible pain. Maybe I should have rocked right along side that girl. Chances are highly probable, her grade in Algebra was much higher than mine and that the rocking helped her achieve that grade. Maybe every single one of these "weirdos" had it right, and maybe we neurotypical folks are the ones that are weird. If you ask someone with an ASD, I promise you that is precisely what you will be told.
The thing is, just like Emma had to adjust her thinking about using a METAL detector to discover things made out of METAL rather than fossilized dinosaur bones, people have to adjust their thinking about autism. They have to stop looking for the differences in children with autism and find the similarities. Stop glancing at what's wrong with a child with autism and look deeper to find what is right. Take the time to dig for the strengths and bury the notion that differences are a sign of weakness. Look past the "weird" and find the "unique". Search below the surface and see the rare, precious treasure that lies hidden within. Just like treasure hunters, who take the time to find what others are quick to discard and carelessly toss aside, someone else's loss is your gain. I promise if you take the time to dig deeper, change your "settings", and sift through what only you can "see", you will make an AWEsome discovery, and even though this discovery will not make you rich or famous, it will certainly leave you wanting to unearth more.