Hey. Today is World Autism Awareness Day. So I'm gonna talk about Autism, a lot.
Autism Awareness is quite a controversial topic amongst the Autism community-there is great division between the parents of Autistic Children and Adults who are Autistic.
I am both of those things.
1. One of my children is always underestimated due to the absence of her verbal voice.
She is intelligent. She is aware. She is just like any other child underneath her little body that she has very little control over. Her outsides don't match her insides-the noises she makes are to shield her from too much information coming in-sights, sounds, smells, aesthetics. Her echolalia is a form of regulation and also at times a form of her unpacking some of the information she has received previously, in order to understand it.
Some of the physical movements she makes are also to assist her to regulate-to feel balanced and to return her to a state of comfort as much as possible.
She hears everything you say, she understands everything you say. But more than any of what she hears, smells, sees or touches..the greatest impact on her is what she senses.
People on the autism spectrum are highly sensitive to energy (empathic)-this means that the attitude, thoughts and assumptions..the 'vibe' you bring around others is something people on the spectrum will pick up about you, instantly. Just as bright lights, pungent smells and loud environments are overwhelming forms of energy..so are human beings (overwhelming forms of energy).
Children on the autism spectrum are often considered to be impatient, demanding and unreasonably expectant. Consider, just for a moment..not being able to express your basic wants and needs. Consider not being understood, or being misunderstood. Consider not being able to communicate when you are in pain or frightened (of the dark, of strange sounds). Consider not being able to express which food you want to eat or where you want to go, how you want to spend your time.
Impatience? Demands? Unreasonable?
2. One of my children is always overestimated due to the presence of advanced expressive language.
She speaks very well. Her language is more advanced than her peers. With this, comes the expectation from others that with her advanced language comes an advanced maturity, an advanced comprehension and understanding.
Her autism manifests in such a way that whilst her expressive language is advanced, her receptive language is delayed. It is behind that of her peers.
This means that whilst she can explain to you the lifecycle of the Sulcata Tortoise in great detail, she is unable to intuitively and instinctively know how to tell you that she is sad, or embarrassed, or experiencing any emotion for that matter. Any emotion she feels is for her, very confusing and overwhelming..and translates as anger. If she is sad or embarrassed, or feels awkward, she will cross her arms and frown. She will engage in a stand off, until she understands there is no threat to her-no unrealistic demands, no social situations she won't understand or misinterpret. She finds people difficult to understand and navigate.
She finds it difficult to understand some very basic questions and to interpret your intentions behind those questions.
Other may believe she is being insubordinate or oppositional for not following instructions or directions, when many times she simply does not understand them.
3. Many adults are on the autism spectrum and have no clue.
Their lives have consisted of struggle..for women in particular, internalised struggle. They have lived with perhaps higher intelligence and little ability to cope with life on life's terms. They are great mimickers and have learnt how to 'be' and how to 'behave' from observing others very carefully.
If you are told a person is autistic and you doubt their diagnosis because they seem 'normal', please understand this..appearing minimally autistic is something that takes a person's lifetime to achieve. It takes years of practice, of struggling and suffering, of stifling who a person truly is (Autistic) in order to not stand out, in order to conform and fit in.
Remember the struggles of the child with advanced expressive language? That doesn't go away. It just transforms into other struggles in understanding and navigating other people and social situations.
Autistic people are often concrete thinkers and struggle with new concepts and changes from what they already know and understand. This can be due to the gross amount of time it takes for us to get our heads around these things in the first place.
Large chunks of our lives are spent focused on the characteristics of our Autism as the problem-depression, anxiety, OCD, gifted learning, learning difficulties, addiction, non compliance, opposition, unquestioning compliance..the list goes on.
Autism is often missed in adults and children for various reasons. It is also regularly misdiagnosed.
The human brain is evolving. Children's brains are changing. This is difficult for most people to understand and accept at present. It's evident in the collective resistance to accepting how many people are now diagnosed Autistic.
Information evolves and changes and it's okay to let go of what we think we know and to welcome new information.
It's important to let go of the fear mongering and the doom and gloom based information around Autism.
Some families are just surviving, some are thriving.
This is called the human condition.
A diagnosis of Autism does not automatically qualify for a life of utter rubbish and inadequacy.
Nor does it mean that any parent's life has come to an end. Perhaps life as we have known it, prior to diagnosis in our children, yes. A different life, yes.
Autistic people are often reluctant to disclose their diagnosis, due to the stigma surrounding it.
Due to not wanting to be misjudged as 'unhinged, disordered, incapable', etc.
I am a proud Mother of four daughters, three of whom have a diagnosis of Autism. I too, have a diagnosis of Aspergers (now known as Autism).
If it wasn't for my beautiful daughters being diagnosed, I never would have known. I have much to be grateful for and there are also great challenges.
Our home is noisy, chaotic and often frenzied, but it is our normal. There are things we have been greatly challenged by-all of us.
We are resilient. We are strong. We are intelligent. We are acutely aware of the needs of others. We are empathetic. We are compassionate. We care for others. None of these fit the myths that come with Autism.
Overall, Autism has changed our lives. For the better.
Accepting and understanding who we are, innately is a far greater freedom than anything else in this world.