Autism: A World of Our Own

As young children we were given storybooks and it wasn’t impossible to imagine the story in our minds. But imagine living with a condition in which a thousand different worlds are concocted in your mind? So much so that it distracts you from reality?

Autism Speaks organization defines Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), more commonly known as Autism as quote ‘a reference to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and non-verbal communications.’

The world around us has a way of labelling autistic individuals:

‘Anti-Social’ ‘Aggressive’ ‘Quiet’

This not only confirms the misunderstood vulnerability of the condition but also hinders the social growth of autistic individuals that would ultimately ‘free themselves’ from autism.

A major disadvantage of autism would be the extreme difficulty of progressing as an independent individual. Because in order to acquire skills of a typical adolescent (e.g. driving, hanging out with friends, dating etc.) it is essential for them to manage their behavior in case of an unexpected situation. For an autistic individual the transition from childhood to adolescence to adulthood would bring about symptoms that could either increase or decrease the effects of autism. Out of the three stages of life it is adolescence that is most vulnerable for autistic individuals. It is a time in which they learn acceptance and rejection. A time when their needs change, to which their parents must understand and adapt to.

Diagnosing autism is a difficult task due to the spectrum of characteristics it expresses in different individuals. Misdiagnosis is not uncommon and some families have taken years to correctly diagnose the condition. The lack of expertise also majorly contributes to misdiagnosis. Autism can be both genetically inherited and could also be acquired through unexpected genetic mutations. It is proven that 200-400 genes are responsible for the development of autism. These genetic mutations could range from a significant change such as the elimination of an entire gene sequence to something as minor as the change of a single amino acid in a gene sequence. When parents learn that their children have autism the most common question is ‘why?’ and ‘how did it develop?’

Any concerned parent would rummage through Google to learn more about the condition but sometimes they can be misleading. A theory that ‘vaccines cause autism’ was published as an article which caused outrage among parents in the autistic community. The theory was debunked but concerned parents demanded scientific evidence for acceptance.  Institutes of Medicine and Centers for Disease Control conducted repetitive investigations to prove this claim wrong and have succeeded in restoring comfort in the minds of these people.

Autism is not all bad. It also brings opportunities for teachers and caretakers of autistic individuals to recognize key skills and abilities that they possess (e.g. high IQ, creativity etc.) and help enhance them for their own self-improvement and to battle the disease to freedom.

As developmental cognitive neuroscientist Suzy Scherf stated, quote ‘It is our job to help teachers, doctors and policy makers understand these (autistic) vulnerabilities.’

Written by: Sadiya Badurdeen