While autism was first officially diagnosed in 1943 by Leo Kanner (who had seen symptoms in children since 1938) – to this day too many questions and a lot of uncertainty still exist around the condition, the people who live with it, and the people who love them. It’s hard to start a discussion about autism because of it’s many layers.
We’ve heard everything from vaccines being the cause, to unfit mothers with poor prenatal habits being the culprit – and so many things in between. What seems to be missing in the fight to discover what causes autism and how to cure it, is a basic understanding of people who are affected by the condition and acceptance of the way they live a little differently.
Autism is a bio-neurological disability that usually begins to show in children younger than three years of age. It commonly affects one’s ability to process information, interact socially, and often impairs cognitive function. Not only do patients who are diagnosed with autism have developmental delays, they frequently have co-existing health conditions such as digestive disorders, sleep problems, and asthma to name a few.
While those terms may mean nothing to you, to a child newly diagnosed with autism, a young adult trying to navigate through life with the condition, and the people who love those affected by it – those words bounce around in their heads all day and night in an act of readiness.
What do we mean by that?
Most people affected by autism, along with their families and friends, are always prepared with an apology for any behavior that society deems ‘unfit’ or ‘uncommon’. Terms like spectrum disorder, sensory processing disorder, cognitive disfunction, and social interaction disabilities are as common in the vocabulary of those affected by autism as
“He’s on the spectrum – that’s why he can’t play with your child the way you’d expect.”
“She’s on the spectrum – that’s why she just had a melt down because her shoe laces weren’t tied the right way.”
“He’s on the spectrum – that’s why he doesn’t respond to your child when they’re trying to talk to him.”
“She’s on the spectrum – that’s why she pinches and hits herself.”
The list of apologies and explanations goes on and on, it not only wears on the person with autism, but the people who love that person – the ones who try to protect them from the stigma, the misunderstanding, and the general lack of knowledge surrounding what autism truly is.
Most people with autism would tell you that instead of a ‘cure’, they want more understanding for the general public. They’d tell you that instead of a genetic test to determine if a fetus will be autistic, they would rather knowledge be spread so they can grow up in a world that sees how incredible and unique they are – not a world that sees them as a burden.
You can’t look at someone and tell if they’re autistic, it’s not written on their faces or their clothes. Autism isn’t a condition that causes physical deformities, and it’s not a condition that fits under one umbrella diagnosis – autism is as unique in each person’s life as the person themselves.
Autism isn’t a diagnosis that means something negative either, most people who have autism will tell you that they just see the world differently. Those who can’t speak themselves will have loved ones around them to tell you that they’re unique, incredibly smart, and multifaceted people.
While autism is a serious condition, and the other health concerns that go hand in hand with autism can make life a bit more difficult, it doesn’t make it impossible, it doesn’t mean that people who are diagnosed with autism should be treated any differently than those without it. Odds are, you know someone who has autism in your own life without even knowing they’ve been diagnosed with the condition.
So for this month, we at CelebMix Cares challenge you to look at what autism truly is, what it isn’t, and instead of focusing on a cure – we challenge you to acknowledge that people who have autism aren’t always suffering, that usually they live more honestly and passionately than other people ever will.
If you know someone living with autism or if you are personally affected by it, tweet us this month and share your story – we look forward to hearing them.