What is Autism? (ASD – Autism Spectrum Disorder)
According to Google definitions Autism is; “a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts.”
Aren’t labels bad?
They certainly can be, but, they don’t have to be.
Labels are part of our culture and communication. Without them companies would lose customers and groups members and finding your favorite book series would become very difficult.
Labels are a quick description and should be treated that way rather then looked at as the whole idea.
If a label is condescending, well then yes, it would be bad.
Some labels are just misunderstood. That is why things like dictionaries are so important. So we don’t all end up with different definitions of things and lose our ability to communicate. If there is doubt, look it up in the dictionary and then we can all get back on the same page.
In some places labels like Autism, Aspergers, ADHD, Bi-Polar, Manic Depression and so on get used negatively and people see them as bad and demeaning labels. But that isn’t how it should be. Labels like those are just descriptions of how someones brain is wired or of an illness someone has to face off and on or even on a regular basis.
If the person with such a label uses it to demean themselves or make excesses not to better themselves or sees it as a way out of doing things they should be doing, then the label is being used in a negative and even harmful way.
However, if the label is being used to understand ones self, better ones self, learn how to cope or over come or discover talents, if the label is being used to get the help they need in school, work and the community, then it’s a good thing. In many schools a child can not get an IEP or a 504 plan and so on without a descriptive label. Those sort of plans can open up all kinds of learning aid that can help the child catch up, get ahead and become a successful student which will matter later in life.
Should we be looking for a cure?
Some people would like the medical researchers to find a cure while other people are insulted by the very thought. Peoples opinions on this matter are often influenced by their own experiences. For instance someone with a child that has high functioning autism may feel proud of their child’s special talents and accomplishments which they may not have been capable of if they weren’t on the spectrum. While another parent may have a very low functioning autistic child who needs constant care and supervision and can not handle daily tasks in their own. These two types of parents will likely view autism very differently. Understanding and respecting that each person has their own perspective is important.
Where does Autism come from? Do immunizations cause it? Is it passed down in the genes?
It is 2015, researchers are still trying to understand Autism and where it comes from. Many folks believe it is genetic because they can trace it from one or both parents and on back.
There is no proof that immunizations cause Autism. The idea came from Dr. Andrew Wakefield who is now disbarred. He falsified documents and abused developmentally challenged children. Sadly his false claims were told to high profile people who then spread them and influenced a lot of people to not immunize their children as well as made people who already gave their children immunizations to feel unnecessarily guilty.
Some people believe it is the result of pollution and chemicals in the air, water and the products we use.
There are some folks who believe Autism is part of human evolution.
It is best to not pick what you want it to be from. It is human nature to need answers. Thankfully there are many researchers looking into this.
Why is the number of people with Autism growing?
Researchers are still trying to understand this and there are a lot of theories.
Some people believe it is because we now have a better understanding of Autism and can recognize it and diagnose it better then in the past. Years ago people were often called socially awkward or socially handicap and other names that may have really been Autistic traits. Sadly some were seen as dumb and bullied terribly because of being misunderstood.
Do both girls and boys have Autism?
Yes, both boys and girls can be on the spectrum. At this time studies show that it is more prevalent in boys then girls. But there is still much to learn about Autism.
It isn’t always Autism.
Many people with Autism have co-symptoms. A lot of folks see the co-symptoms as part of the Autism which is not always the case.
IQ and Talent
Most people in the spectrum have an average to high IQ but there are some exceptions and co-symptoms can make this very as well. If a person has an average or high IQ they may still be seen as less intelligent because of mental blocks that cause them to shut down or cause some learning disabilities. Children who are bullied often will likely have failing grades. This is not a sign of low intelligence, but of abuse.
Many people on the spectrum may appear to be genius in certain areas. Wither they were that way naturally or not it is often because of their obsession with the subject that they have become or appear so. Because they often obsess over certain things they tend to learn as much about the subject matter as they can and from every angel possible to them. Finding an Autistic persons obsession(s) can be very important to their well being and even survival. It gives them a sense of purpose and accomplishment and a way to regulate themselves instead of having a melt down. It is ones hope their obsession will translate into a career but it isn’t always the case.
Manga, Anime and other Fandoms
Not all people in the spectrum are into manga and anime. However, it is common. It isn’t surprising since many Japanese cartoons use extreme facial expressions making it a sort of “brain break” for people who have had to spend long hours trying to interpret what other people really mean.
Star Trek used to be, and for some people still is, another favorite due to Spock and other Vulcan’s who are very Autistic like and easier for Autistic people to relate to. More and more shows now days are including positive images of either Autistic people or Autistic like people.
Many people on the spectrum like to attend manga, anime and comic cons, (conventions). Again it can be a brain break for many people on the spectrum. They can dress up as their favorite character and play act along with other people who do not judge them or expect then to “act normal”.
Can you tell if a person is Autistic by looking at them? Do Autistic people have feelings?
People with Autism do not usually look any different then the average person.
Some people with Autism do appear outwardly to have something like Autism due to lifelong habits. For instance, if they have sinus problems, like any child they may tend to leave their mouth open in order to be able to breath well. If not taught other wise they may continue this habit into adult hood making them look odd to other people. This can actually happen to anyone, not just Autistic people. Many Autistic people rely on their own logic which will often over rule other peoples ideas in their own mind. So, if looking odd in order to breath better or move about, etc, is more logical to them then the outward appearance might not matter in that regard. All Autistic people are different and have their own personality so there is no pat answer for such things.
Sometime you can recognize an Autistic person by their ticks, melt downs, what stimulates or over stimulates them and so on. But, it isn’t a good idea to assume ’till you learn more about that person because there are other things that a person can have that have similar traits. Melt downs are a common occurrence for children with autism. Many parents have been judged as bad parents and many kids have been labeled demon possessed due to melt downs and what others see as odd behavior. Common problems for Autistic people are florescent lights, certain noises, crowds, and other things that cause over stimulation. Because many Autistic people do not know how to properly express themselves or are not allowed to they will invert and withdraw or they may start screaming, wave their hands, spin circles, rock and many other things to try to regulate themselves. Once they are in a melt down it is very difficult to communicate with them, they are mentally shut off. Punishing them, hurting them and so on doesn’t translate into help, but even more stimulation and makes the matter worse.
They normally do not naturally read facial language and body language and they usually do not get hints. It is common for them to not use facial or body language and they are often very blunt and forthright with no verbal filter. Because of these things they are often misunderstood and misjudged. Some people may see them as psychopaths because they can appear to not have emotions. However, that is far from the truth. They usually express their emotions differently then the average person and often find what others see as funny as not funny and what others see as serious as not serious due to their different perspective on life. They usually feel as deeply as anyone else, just in different areas then the average person.
Many Autistic people can learn to emulate facial and body language. They can also learn what is and isn’t appropriate in our society. If they desire to fit in, they can excel at this. Some Autistic folks have done so well at this that they seem to have phased out of Autism or overcome it. However, it is still something they have to deal with mentally while the typical person doesn’t have to even think about it. So while they are in the public they are likely mentally working harder then most the people around them.
The Spectrum (ASD) and Mental Illness
There is a full spectrum of people with Autism which is one of the reasons they are all different. The outer edge of the spectrum used to be called and still is called in many places, Aspergers. On the inside edge of the spectrum there is high functioning Autism and as you get closer to the center of the spectrum there is low functioning, etc. Then there is the co-symptoms adding even more angles to each individual.
Many people do not consider Autism as a mental illness. However, many folks with autism can relate to people who have mental illnesses because they often face similar issues both mentally and socially. Plus, some people with Autism have mental illness co-symptoms.
Therapists, School Counselors and IEP’s
It is good for a person on the spectrum to have a therapist or someone who they can talk to and get their frustrations out as well as learn coping techniques and social skills. However, therapist, like everyone else, are all different. One therapist may relate to a certain type of person but not to another type. Some people find a helpful therapist right away while for others it may take a while.
School councilors are often very helpful to students. It is wise to introduce your child to their school councilor and help them become comfortable with talking to them and visiting them when they need help and do not know where else to go.
Getting the school to give your child an IEP (individualized education program) can make a huge difference in their educational success. IEP’s can open the door to many resources they would not other wise be able to use as well as options for how and where they take tests, where they can go to regulate themselves, and so on. Plus is causes the teachers and staff to communicate with the parent(s) or guardian(s) and keeps everyone responsible for any actions the school staff may take.
Support Groups and Resources
While people in the Autism spectrum may all be different, they usually have some things in common that can cause them to relate and understand each other better. This is also true for parents, guardians, family and friends of people in the spectrum. It is good for both the person in the spectrum as well as those around them to have people around who understand what they are going though, people who can relate to the frustrations as well as the joys without prejudice.
You may find there are many resources in your area. While searching online can help it can also be frustrating. Often the local Autism support group will have resource contact information making finding such things less stressful. Some people qualify for state and government aid. You may want to contact your local Social Security office and ask them for information on help they may provide as well as resources they recommend.
Being a friend to an Autistic person.
People in the spectrum need friends and a social life like anyone else. Some of them may have even shut down and given up on making friends in order to protect themselves from being mentally hurt.
Knowing that someone has Autism sometimes helps but people in general should be given a chance and not hastily judged. You just never know what a person may be going through and what they have had to deal with as well as how their brain works and interprets what is around them.
Though Autistic people are all different there are things you can assume until otherwise notified. Don’t crowed them and enter their personal space and don’t touch them without permission even if it is a kind gesture like a hug. Some Autistic people loved to be cuddled and hugged, but many do not! Do not hint around, say what you mean to say plainly. Do not expect them to read your facial or body language and vocal ques. Many Autistic people have a wonderful sense of humor, but it may not be like yours and they may not “get” your humor. Be ready to be offended at first and challenge yourself to get over it. Many people on the spectrum say what they are thinking and do not mean to cause harm. In a way, they do what so many people say they wished people would do, they are honest and forthright. Sometimes it’s okay to tell them what they said hurt your feelings so they can learn more about you. But give them time because if it isn’t logical it may be difficult for them to grasp. While Autistic people often have a reputation for not lying, don’t assume either way. They are human just like you can can learn to lie just like anyone else. But, just like anyone else, give them a chance!
If an Autistic person is having a melt down, give them their space. Don’t try to fix them. While children may not know what to use to regulate themselves, an older child or adult likely will and may just need time in order to do so. If they need to be alone, respect their need.
Trying to change an Autistic person, or really anyone, is an unnecessary stress on both of you. As long as what they are doing or what they are obsessed with is not causing anyone harm, learn to accept it, appreciate it and be happy for your friend. As a parent you may need to help your child learn what is socially acceptable in order to get good grades, not lose a friend and get and keep a job. But beyond that Autistic people are individuals and should be encouraged to be true to themselves and who they are, accepting their differences and appreciating their unique way of thinking. The odd character and way of thinking of many people in our past and present have contributed greatly to how we live today and the technology we use. Without their different way of thinking we wouldn’t be nearly as advanced as we are today.
Sadly many Autistic people are bullied. It often happens to them as children, but it can follow them into adulthood.
Like any child some will become introverted and shy away from people while others will fight back by becoming bullies themselves. Neither is a good reaction. Ignoring the fact that a child is being bullied will not fix the problem and it will not make the problem go away. Even if it doesn’t seem like the child is really being bullied, if it is true in their mind, it still needs to be dealt with.
Once the child gets older they will have established habits making it more difficult to help them. It’s possible, but not easy and will depend on wither they want help or not.
It is wise to involve the school councilor and the child’s therapist to help the child learn ways to overcome bullying and thrive around their peers. Their obsession can also help. Having something they love to look forward to and to use to help calm and regulate them is very helpful. Another helpful thing to do is to look up famous people who have overcome bullying and are now successful. You will find there are a lot of famous people who also are in the spectrum. Seeing examples of people who made it through the tough times can give a child incite to a better future and a wonderful sense of hope.
This article was written by Lorenakoran.
I am not a licensed professional. I’m a mother of four, two of my children are in the spectrum.
I encourage you to learn more about Autism by researching from time to time since there is still more to be discovered and understood. Please remember to be skeptical of new information and take the time to research it and it’s sources before accepting it as truth and sharing it with others.
I invite you to be a part of my FaceBook community dedicated to encouraging people in the spectrum as well as their families, friends and supporters. It is called Autism Rises Above, the web address is; https://www.facebook.com/autismrisesabove.
Please fell free to share this article and add links to your own local ASD support groups at the bottom clearly marked as yours, but do not remove my name and link or change anything I have written.
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