Autism cures and the origins of autism are running rampant presently. New articles appear in all media venues daily. Some are downright invalidated claims that appear to have been pulled out of a metaphorical hat randomly.
As the parent of an adult son with Asperger’s syndrome and educator, I will attempt to form my rebuttal. I have gained more knowledge working with special needs children in the classroom and bringing up a child on the spectrum to adulthood living with him 24 – 7 then I ever learned in my Masters of education courses and undergrad psychology courses.
For sure, my educational background provided me with the knowledge and application for diagnostic techniques, application, delivery, behaviors and comprehension of learning, emotional and developmental syndromes. However, I learned quickly that neither my students nor my son came from a page in a textbook. An alternate college called school of hard knocks is where I actually honed my skills.
That said, autism is a neurobiological syndrome. Simply stated, this means autism affects the neurological system and the biological system of individuals on the spectrum. I choose to call autism a syndrome versus a disorder. I have mentioned in the past that I equate a disorder with a broken engine in a car that needs to be repaired. Autistics are not broken. Therefore they do not need to be fixed.
We need to focus on supportive strategies to assist special needs individuals in honing there skills to the extent of development that individual can reach versus focusing on cures. Perhaps, rather then spending large amounts of money on curing autism which cannot be cured as it is not a disease, we should focus on beneficial programs.
Some programs that must be increased are parental, special needs, and sibling programs. Autism affects the whole family not just the individual who is diagnosed with it. Thus, all involved with an individual on the spectrum require increased support educational, spiritually, therapeutically, and supportive assistance.
Programs are severely lacking for adults on the spectrum as well. As these individuals age out of parents insurance, childhood social groups and therapy, etc. they are literally being sent out into the world without the much needed transitional skills and support teams to achieve independence and success within society. All autistic children will grow up to be autistic adults.
Those on the spectrum and their families who have received assistance from intensive support teams who assist with bio – psycho – social development can develop skills to help them function within society and provide skill – sets that assist their positive growth and development.
Through intensive therapy, behaviors may be abated, skills may be learned. This is not indicative of being neither cured nor outgrowing autism. Throughout intensive therapeutic programs and neurological development of an individual as they get older, compensatory strategies are learned. Compensatory strategies mean exactly what the word sounds like. Autistic individuals learn to compensate for their deficits through honing their strength’s.
The child who learns visually but has difficulty with auditory steps may use pictures to follow through with a task. As children get older, they may replace stimming by twirling in circles, flapping hands, humming out loud with feet that are in constant motion while staying seated, rubbing hand across the edge of a table, sliding fingers over a coffee cup or simply squeezing a rubber ball to release stress. These individuals are not “cured” of autism. They have simply adapted and learned more socially acceptable ways to deal with behaviors due to intense training and maturation of their nervous system over time.
Cure is not a realistic focus because it is encouraging society to focus on grouping individuals on the spectrum into a cookie cutter ideology of what neurotypical society deems as normal. Society needs to stop focusing on cures and techniques that project an unrealistic goal of creating individuals on the spectrum who fit society’s view of normal. focus
Focusing on merely cures is insulting to both autistic individuals AND the families who love them. It sends a hidden message that conforming with the norms of society is a prioritized over assisting special needs individuals in receiving optimum quality of life and celebrating the skills and unique personalities that autistic individuals possess. Hence, the message of cures which equates normalcy is resultant in making special needs individuals and their families feel somehow damaged because they do not fit societal expectations.
In closing, with treatment, autistic individuals can develop and grow. Absence of challenges and behaviors that were present in the past may dissipate. This in no means is indicative of autism being cured. For many individuals, it is a constant battle to internalize behaviors to “fit in”. Autism is still present but adaptive skills have been learned.
Let’s remember to look deeply enough to see and celebrate the individual talents that autistic individuals possess, even the lowest functioning ones. The child who can not speak may have a smile that melts the heart of all that come in contact with him or her. The child with a low IQ may have an extremely high artistic IQ and express their thoughts with a paintbrush.
The individual who is not capable of interacting in social groups may possess the capability to stand on stage and give the world the gift of music. The individual who is non verbal may write a bestseller book that rocks the world when provided with a lap top. I could go on but I suppose I have made my point.
Embrace the talents of the autistic population rather then focusing on their deficits. If you stop looking for deficits and cures, you may see the talents that these individuals possess. Approach as a diamond in the rough. Diamonds are original black and ugly. When they are polished a beautiful shiny diamond appears although one cannot see it until they dig through the rough black surface that hides the treasured jewel. Food for thought. If society steps into the world of an autistic individual for a while rather then constantly focusing on them stepping into the neurotypical world, they may just join you in our world more often.
I challenge you. Step outside of your biased box today. Find a diamond in the rough and start polishing away.
I am a published author and focus on books pertaining to autism and Aspergers Syndrome. I have had special needs articles published in several magazines. I have been interviewed several times in print, on pod casts, and internet T.V. regarding the autism spectrum. I have presented autism workshops to staff, management teams, and parent groups. I offer tips on curriculum development and behavior modification within the classroom and through in-services. I am certified by the Department of Early Childhood Education as a lead preschool teacher, an infant and toddler teacher, and site coordinator qualified to manage school age programs. I have recently ventured into public speaking engagements to educate both parents and educators on autism and Aspergers Syndrome
I want my experiences and challenges to be used productively as a learning tool for other parents and for educators as well. When my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s a decade ago it was a foreign word among many parents and professionals alike. I fought for help never giving up. Through my books I wish to help parents feel like they do not walk in the dark, that they are not alone, empower them and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I also want to educate society at large on the topic of the autism spectrum. I believe all parties involved need to work as a collaborative team in order to insure a special needs child’s Amazon.com at Mari Nosal : Please stop by my site at Amazon Books and check out my published books on autism aspergers special needs and more you like my articles, aside from being the parent of an adult with Aspergers Syndrome/ A.D.D and an educational professional, I am also a published author of many special needs and autism related books written to inspire and support parents, families, educators and society at large as well. Please stop by and check out my books on http://tinyurl.com/kdspqy9
Mari Nosal M.Ed.