April is autism awareness month. I wanted to share one thing I think, as a father, would be useful for people to know.
That is this:
Every autistic person is different
Let’s dive a little deeper into that.
Each autistic person is their own person
In the same way that two people with the diagnosis of normal can be extremely different people, two people with the diagnosis of autism are likely to be entirely different. They have different personalities, likes, and dislikes. What one of them finds funny, another will find annoying. What one of them considers difficult, another will find easy.
Each autistic person’s autistic symptoms are also unique
The word and diagnosis of autism covers an extremely wide array of symptoms. I have two boys with autism from the same parents, whose symptoms are different. My oldest is non-verbal, has self-injury behaviors, and loves a lot of physical and auditory stimulation. My youngest is verbal, has mild OCD symptoms, has no self-injury behaviors, and generally avoids too much physical or auditory stimulation.
Read here the diagnostic criteria for autism. The short of it, though, is that the label autism is given to anyone who has any deficit in these three areas at the same time:
- Social-emotional reciprocity
- Nonverbal communicative behaviors
- Developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships
How these deficits show up in a particular individual can vary greatly. The severity of the deficits can also vary greatly. The deficit’s severity is referred to as the autism spectrum.
To give a few examples of symptoms within this diagnosis to show how wide the net of autism can be cast.
Example 1 - The person who talks over the top of people
A person loves talking so much that they seem a touch rude. They don’t pick up on the signals you’re sending that you’d like to change topics or interject a statement. As a result, you hang out with that person less than others.
Example 2 - The overly shy person
A person is introverted to the point where people feel they must prompt them to start/continue conversations. They like to avoid eye contact because it makes them uncomfortable, and because of this, they miss your non-verbal cues, and that eye avoidance is annoying to you. As a result, you hang out with that person less than others.
Example 3 - A child with brain damage
The child has brain damage due to some physical injury. As a result, they have difficulty communicating, and although they have perfect hearing, they have problem processing language. All this makes it difficult for them to develop and maintain relationships.
It’s also important to note. The diagnosis of autism does not reference at all what is causing those three deficits. There are potentially hundreds of thousands of different reasons a person could have deficits in those three areas.
Each autistic person is unique. Spend time getting to know them on an individual basis. You’ll likely learn something new and make a new friend.