When I think of doing research, I think of writing papers and boring schoolwork. Most of the time, this is the case, but on one particular “research project” it was different, because I actually cared about what I was reading. In high school, one of my best friends Meg came up to me with an idea for a new club at school. She wanted to bring awareness about autism to our school as well as form a Special Olympics Club because she had recently gone to a football game and heard a man speak about autism. Before she went, she had never really thought about the word “retarded” or how it might affect other people. After all being in high school, there was never a day when you didn’t hear it. She told me his name was Frank and that the way he spoke and his story was the reason she wanted to bring this to our school. And so I began to research autism and what it meant, how it worked. I had never really thought about it before. Why we use the word “retarded” and how it might make others feel. So I began researching it and asking questions until I had found a lot of information about it and all of my questions had been answered. Then, I decided to join Meg and bring a campaign “Spread the Word to End the Word” to campus. At first, we received a lot of judgment and a lot of “I really don’t care”, but after getting the seniors behind us, we actually did a pretty good job getting the information about it out there. We were even able to convince the school to let us bring a speaking in to talk to the entire school about autism.
We got people talking about it, starting conversations. This was very important because in order to succeed, people have to be aware. And sure there are always going to be some people that you just can’t do anything about who will never change their ways, but even if we just changed one or two people’s view on it, it’s still one or two more than we would have had we not taken the time to research something that we were interested in, cared about, and believed in.
After researching it, I look at people with autism as well as people that ignorantly use the word “retarded” differently. Obviously, I don’t find the word “retarded” even remotely funny and find those that knowingly use it ignorant and disrespectful because why else would someone use a word that they know hurts someone else’s feelings on purpose. I also have a newfound respect towards those with autism as well as a fascination because after being around people my entire life, interestingly enough, in general the people with autism are more positive and intelligent than someone without it because they focus on the bright side and they work harder than others to become the best and brightest that they can possibly be.
Taking the time to research autism was life-changing for me because not only did it provide me with a platform in high school to lead others, but also an opportunity to get to know a lot of very cool people that I wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise.