Oswego State students filed into the Campus Center Auditorium Monday night, Feb. 25, as the Counseling Services Center in conjunction with the Peer 2 Peer educators presented a special TED talk about autism.
Oswego State Professor Jennifer Rapke presented a student film made about a 17-year-old named Adam Urquhart who has lived his entire life with a severe form of autism.
Filmed in the Urquhart’s kitchen, students interviewed Adam’s mother, Penny Urquhart, who divulged the hardships her family has endured since Adam was diagnosed at three years old. Doctors warned Urquhart that Adam had the expressive language of a one year old, and that the road ahead would be long and difficult.
Urquhart swiftly responded. “The road will only be tough if you allow it to be tough.”
Adam is not able to speak sentences longer than three or four words at a time. Although there exists a major communication block between Adam and everyone around him, his mother said that he is completely receptive to everything around him. He can hear what a person is asking, but a response is nearly impossible. The world is a one-way street for Adam.
The video, intended for educational purposes, took a somber turn as the students asked Urquhart how she copes with her son’s illness. Urquhart said she is worried about Adam’s future and who will be there to take care of him when his parents no longer can. Urquhart lamented the lack of control kids with autism have over their lives.
“These kids didn’t choose this lifestyle,” Eckert said. “Mental retardation wasn’t chosen for them, they’re born with it.”
Eckert encouraged students to consider the importance of not only being a friend to our peers who suffer from autism, but their families as well. Living with autism presents a challenge as it is, but Eckert said that the challenge can be made much easier with the proper support systems around to help.
The TED talk then transitioned into an open discussion among students about bullying of kids with and without special needs that they have witnessed first hand. Several stories were told and preventative measures were discussed in order to stop children of all ages from suffering from the negative effects of bullying. The tone of the discussion became grim enough that some students in attendance felt the need to leave.
The TED talk came to an end as the Counseling Center presented one last video of a national TED talk in which an English woman named Faith Jegede spoke about her two brothers who both suffer from autism. Her testimony, titled “What I’ve Learned from my Autistic Brothers” discussed the unconditional love that her brothers display everyday without any regards to race, sexual orientation or any of the other differences that often set this world apart. Jegede’s message can be found on YouTube.
“You dont have to be normal, you can be extraordinary,” said Jegede. “Never tell me I’m normal.”