The first lesson they teach us in EMT class
Is to never lose our compassion,
Never forget that every patient is
A human being with a story, a family, a life.
They tell us to keep our emotions in check
But to never lose our respect,
The trust in the competency and freedom of choice,
For we are the link of survival
On the worst day of their lives.
We were not there to know the reason that led
Up to the call,
But we are there to get them through the danger that followed.
Why then does the text book instruct us to abandon our respect,
Abandon the presumption of humanity
At the mere thought of the words 'developmental disability?'
Why do the words Autism and Down Syndrome suddenly
Make it okay to condescend and patronize as if to a child,
To infantilize an adult whose intelligence we are not qualified to assume?
Why is it my duty to respect a neurotypical patient
And my job to abandon it for the developmentally disabled?
I wonder if they would encourage my peers to treat me the same?
After all, who cares that I am top of the class and squad leader to boot?
Who cares that I answer the most questions or scored highest on the test?
I am autistic. I am considered less than human.
The textbook is wrong,
Primitive despite being updated in 2018.
Respect every patient means Respect ALL,
No diagnostic caveats.
'First, do no harm.'
Treat with empathy and compassion.
It is their own inhumanity that prevents them
From recognizing the humanity inside us,
The developmentally challenged.
I live on planet Autism,
Population 1 in 59,
No less of a person than any other,
Perhaps more human really.
That humanity is the force behind my First Responder drive.
Do not deign to treat me as small child or foreign planet inhabitant.
Forget the basis in the archaic.
Respect and compassion for all cannot be checked at the door.
I am not less than.
My struggles have, if anything,
Forced me to become more.