Tuesday, 20 January 2015


Bulleting through the cold of the evening is the warmth of the train. Winter coats stand or sit in every direction. Cellular screens reflect Voldemort-blanche against the black-and-light of tunnel sifted through window against Wifi or cellphone reception. Earbuds play what is to us a static, to the seduced a helicopter decibel. The few peacoats, black dress shoes and Tommy Hilfiger jeans not on their phones steal glances at the blinking map above.“The next station is . . .” calls the automated female voice of the train. The passenger looks up.  Indeed the map blinks a green light at the name of her stop. Within one or two minutes she is standing in front of the red door that would be closest to the stairs at the destination station.

She glances at the ads above her head. The one above her shows a picture of smiling children, some with dark skin and some with light skin. One holds a ball. The ad comes from Bloorview Kids Rehab and shows a blue infinity symbol. It states that it is seeking kids aged 10-17 with Autism or Aspergers Syndrome for participation in treatment to study the effects of Oxytocin to reduce Autism symptoms.

Coupled with a silent sigh is a raised curiosity.

Oxytocin . . . why does she know the word?

Oxytocin . . .

Grade 12 Biology Textbook (Taken from
As the train nears her destination and the cool female voice announces “Arriving at,” she remembers. An almost-seventeen-year-old sat in a thirty-seat room with small lab benches between tables. She recalls the words below her eyes: Chapter 10: The Endocrine System as her friend read upon light-harvesting complexes and ATP synthases in Chapter 5: Photosynthesis and her Biology teacher announced the Chapter Five quiz for the upcoming Friday. Her friend might’ve asked her for help on the Calvin Cycle (which has little to do with Mr. Klein) as her notes on triiodothyroxine (Can you guess why the body needs its iodine?), epinephrine (for those decibel apocalypse escapes) and oxytocin (which stimulates a new mother’s milk) glared at the ceiling and awaited her return to the next paragraph.

The train’s speakers chime and steel doors slide open. The ad walks her frontal lobe as she steps off and heads up the stairs. That is, until the passenger runs to catch her bus.
I first saw the ad in December. A second time occurred either this month or in the last. I suspect a third time this Friday a few seats away from me. About a year after I studied Oxytocin (and was eventually tested on it, yet not before finishing the final chapter), I discovered that Oxytocin is known as the “cuddle hormone,” and along with its role in breastfeeding, is claimed to improved affection and trust. Some sources state that those with Autism produce less Oxytocin and research studies suggest administering oxytocin through nasal sprays to improve trust and social interaction and decrease repetitive behaviours.

Why should we, those on the spectrum be drug targets, though?

Many on the spectrum are non-verbal. Many don’t find another’s cornea important. Some dislike hugs. Some are wary to trust. Some take a while to make friends.

Many on the spectrum have repetitive behaviours. Some flap their arms. I stutter sometimes, especially if I’m excited or nervous. Some focus with the attention of a White House security guard on what they’re doing.

There is nothing wrong with this. It is a myth that those on the spectrum cannot show affection. As I mentioned in About, studies have shown that those on the spectrum have more empathy than your average person. Maybe those that are non-verbal will never say “I love you” to someone yet their actions can show it. Maybe a person doesn’t want to hug yet hugs were never the only method of being kind. What makes it right to put down a person who does not look at you in your eye but is genuine? As for repetitive behaviours, sometimes they make a person with Autism whom they are. Furthermore, the ability to focus on specific topics doubles as a strength to those on the spectrum for they can excel in their passions. What gives the right to put down a person with such ability?

Just as there are no symptoms of MBA ambition to relieve in Bachelor of Commerce graduates, just as there are no symptoms of wanting dinner to relieve in a person who hasn’t eaten in a few hours and sees a Tim Hortons, there are no symptoms of Autism or Aspergers Syndrome to relieve in those on the spectrum.

Because my university is downtown, some of my friends, classmates, TAs and professors take the subway. What will they think about Autism when they see this ad? Will they think of us as those with symptoms to remove as the overhead poster suggests, or will they see through it and appreciate the idea of neurodiversity?

Furthermore, what can you expect a person on the spectrum to think at the sight of the ad? I was able to look at it and see it for what it was but some don’t. Some want to be more than the word Disorder yet see on the poster that as long as they remain whom they are, they are not even worth a letter.
Yonge-University-Spadina Handlebars (Taken from

Tomorrow is Wednesday morning, or to me another few minutes down Toronto’s Yonge-University-Spadina line. If you too are watching blinking subway maps and you see this ad, think. Think what this implies to those that interact with others on the spectrum. Think what it implies to those on the spectrum. Think before you judge. If you’re in your car and you can think while driving (though I absolutely do not promote distracted driving and will not be held responsible for any overthinking at the wheel), consider what happens when you put ordinary characteristics to the word relieve. If you’re biking (How one can bike with ice leering at the edge of the pavement, I still fathom) or walking or boarding a flight, think the same thing too. (I don’t promote distracted biking either.) If we all thought, we could all question. If we questioned, we could impact the answer.

- FA

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