When we first met, she apologized for saying hello to me when I was in the presence of my other friends. I told her that she IS my friend, that she never has to apologize for saying hello.
Meanwhile, my heart was breaking.
Because we live in a world where people feel as though their disabilities make them inferior, unworthy of friendship, less of a human being.
Because I see the way that people avoid meeting her eyes when she looks at them.
Because one day, as I was walking back to my dorm after one of our conversations, I overheard her say, "Wow! Somebody actually acknowledged me!"
She has autism, but she is so, so much more than that. I just wish more people would take the time to talk to her. I won't share the details of her personal life on here, but I will say that she has a beautiful heart. She works at my dining hall, so I see her often, and she always greets me with hugs and smiles. Before I leave, she reminds me to be careful in the ice and the snow.
"You are a like a sister to me," she said. "I'll always look out for you."
I look out for her, too.
Recently, she came up to me with sadness in her eyes and said that she was scared for her health -- because she has asthma and she's not allowed to carry her inhaler with her. I asked her if she had easy access to one if there was ever an emergency, and she said no, that they don't even allow her to keep it in the vicinity of where she works. And then she said that she was upset because they [the people in charge?] accompany her to her doctors' appointments even when she feels uncomfortable with them listening in, that they don't give her time alone with the doctor to ask personal questions about her health.
"Speak up for yourself," I said, "because that's not right at all. For your own safety, you should always have access to an inhaler if you need it, and you should be able to feel comfortable asking your doctor questions."
I don't know all of the details of the situation, but it seems to
me that she's being taken advantage of. Maybe the people in charge are simply ignorant, or maybe they think that because she has autism, she won't voice her concerns. I told her that she needs to talk to them about
these situations, and if they don't listen, to mention her concerns to
both her mom and her doctor. I realize that maybe she's not allowed to
administer her own medicine, but the people in charge of taking care of
her should at least have an inhaler on hand if it's documented that she has asthma.
I don't know about the logistics, but I do know this: she shouldn't be fearing for her life.