I hope you all (assuming this blog has anything resembling a consistent readership) are having a great holiday season. The gift-giving may be behind us, but the spirit should live on. As we go back to the daily grind of our lives, we can’t forget those less fortunate than us, no matter how many distractions the world throws at us. The shapers of our society would like nothing more than for us to disregard the existence of the marginalized in our world. Extermination policies did not begin or end with the Third Reich; an undeclared war has been waged against undesirable populations for many centuries, and we see the casualties today in homelessness, economic inequality, racism, political corruption, addiction, and our broken healthcare system. Out of the many marginalized populations that take the brunt of this abuse, the autistic community is one of the less visible. You probably wouldn’t imagine the writer of this blog as autistic, but I am.
We’ve all seen the propaganda, mostly courtesy of pressure groups like Autism Speaks, portraying autism as a world-ending plague on mankind. Anyone living with an autistic loved one knows that this isn’t true, and that autism in its many manifestations is simply a difference that society doesn’t like. As autistic people start to speak up and advocate for themselves in the coming years, opposition from these hate groups will intensify.
Here at Enviro, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon in the reviews for one of our products, which is next in our PELTOR spotlight series. The PELTOR Junior earmuffs are designed for the younger set: children, teens, and infants. They’re a basic passive hearing protection product with an adjustable headband, vibrant colors, and deliberate exclusion of small parts that could pose a choking hazard. 3M doesn’t make clear what exactly the intended application is; kids don’t usually work in high-noise environments, so it would seem they’re intended for children who want to accompany their family to the gun range or out hunting. Which is great! It gives parents or other family members an opportunity to share their hobbies with their kids, maybe introduce them to something they’ll come to love themselves. That’s awesome.
In the reviews, however, it looks like our customers have found some more creative uses for them. A recurring theme is that they’re used for kids on the autism spectrum. Autistic kids are often hypersensitive to loud noise, especially when it’s sudden and unexpected. Earmuffs are an excellent solution to that problem, and the PELTOR Juniors are affordable and convenient. I think 3M would do well to refine the product further and market it directly to the special needs community. For example, one reviewer wishes the earmuffs were collapsible and could more easily fit in her purse. That’s an easy fix.
Obviously, Christmas is over and the time is past for you to buy a set for an autistic child or teen in your life, but the awareness is what counts here. It’s important, even on a tiny platform like mine, to push back against the mainstream notions of what autism is, how it works, and what should be done about it. I don’t think 3M cares much about us; they’re a massive conglomerate with their own agendas and concerns. But they made a product that serves a very real need, and it’s in the best interest of everyone involved to explore that relationship further. As for you, take the time to hear what autistic people actually have to say about autism, and cherish the autistic people in your life for who they are, while you still can.
Find out more about autistic issues from an autistic perspective at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.