DEFINITION OF AUTISM
Autism is an atypical neurological connectivity paradox resulting in heightened activity in some areas of the brain and decreased activity in others, compared to neurotypicals. The paradoxes of Autism result in Autistics being extremely gifted in some areas, and extremely inept in others. The struggles Autistics deal with are often aggravated by people, who do not accept that Autism is a paradox, focusing solely on one aspect of Autism while refusing to acknowledge the paradoxical other. Those who focus solely on the areas that autistics struggle with will deny them the opportunity to exceed expectation and reach their maximum potential. Those who focus solely on their strengths, while not accommodating and/or deny the legitimacy of the autistics struggles, will set the autistic up for failure.
Some of the struggles Autistics face because of their atypical neurological connectivity include: sensory processing issues, hyper sensitivity to stress and emotions, impaired executive functioning, seizures, etc. All of these can result in the “melt downs” that Autism is practically synonymous with. The good news is that therapists who specialize in autism not only understand what is causing many of these issues, but also have various therapies and other treatment options that have been proven to the quality of life for many Autistics. As we autistics get older and become adults, many of us can learn various coping mechanism that can minimize the impact that these issues have on our day to day lives.
In addition, science also shows that the human brain is “plastic,” meaning that our brain is constantly changing, enabling it to adapt in both positive and negative ways. This provides us with scientific evidence that some areas which autistics struggle with may be modifiable. When I combined these understandings of neurology with the surplus of documented examples of “late bloomers,” it enables me to give all Autistics the benefit of the doubt in terms of what we may be able to achieve in life. This includes us overcoming many of our personal struggles, achieve our goals and enjoying a high quality of live. This gives hope to the parents of those who are considered to be “low functioning” autistics that the quality of their child’s life may improve over time. This is not a guarantee, but reason to give your child the benefit of the doubt. I am also not saying that various therapies and other treatments are not needed for autistics. I am just saying that no one should ever hoist the white flag in their, nor anyone else’s, personal lives.
Finally, many parents of those who are considered “low functioning” autistic children utterly reject the idea that those of us who are considered “high functioning” Autistics are “Autistic enough” to understand their children. When they see us not struggling the way their children are, they cannot comprehend many of us do have those very same struggles when we were children. Nor can they comprehend that we may still have those struggles. Such parents need to understand that there is more to the subject of autism then their children’s struggles. Neuroscience clearly shows that we do have core neurological commonalities with their children. This enables us to provide these parents with practical insights about their children. Many of us have learned various coping mechanisms that enable us to function better in our day to day lives, which can provide a basis to develop customizable strategies ALL autistics.
WHO ARE AUTISTICS?
Autistics are human beings who have Autism. They have the same needs, wants, personality strengths and weakness, etc. as any other human being, but face unique challenges in having their needs and wants met. The subjects of what Autism is and who are Autistics are two uniquely different, yet interwoven subjects. The same can be said while discussing any group of people and the unique individuals that make up the group.
It’s a well-known fact that Autistic children are often subjected to bullying and may have far more severe misunderstandings with their parents and other adults who are placed in charge of them, compared to neurotypical children. Because I was not diagnosed with Autism until I was 40 years old, I addressed the consequences of these experiences a manner that many neurotypicals do. I attended a general purpose 12 Step program in order to overcome codependency. Many of the neurotypicals in my group related not only to my experiences, but the consequences that they produced. Together, these neurotypicals and I supported each other enable us to overcome our pasts.
When I started attending an Autism support group following my diagnosis, I heard the same stories and observed the same consequences as I did when I attended the 12 Step meetings. However, I have not heard anyone talk about these issues as having a major impact on the lives of Autistics. Instead, I heard everything that Autistics struggle with blamed on neurology. It seems to me that the subject of Autism is discussed almost exclusively as a study of neurological abnormalities and the problems they cause.
I believe that the assumption that every struggle that Autistics have ties into their neurology, without taking any consideration that some issues may be grounded in phycology, is the biggest thing that needs to change. This is especially when talking about the social, relational, etc. struggles of Autistic teens and adults.