this is NOT autism awareness

 

In Autumn last year I said farewell to you all, as I have started a new blog focussing on anxiety and depression (which can be found here)  However, despite the fact that I stopped posting on this site, I am still getting a regular flow of new followers. So I would like to honour those newcomers by reviving this blog in the way of adding a new post on here today.

It’s hard to drag myself away from the topic of depression because that is where my heart lies and over the past 8 months I have met hundreds of lovely people who are going through various stages of this affliction – from overcomers fighting against a relapse, then the mildly melancholy, to those on the brink of suicide.

But I’m going to talk about

AUTISM

 

So, it was Autism Awareness Day last week. My 12 year old daughter was shown a video in class of a bunch of *low-functioning (*see glossary below) autistic children behaving in a low-functioning way. This completely freaked her out and she came home with the assumption that all people with *ASD are abnormal, mentally retarded and very scary.

Showing videos like this to children is dangerous. This is not autism awareness. This is deepening the stereotype in the minds of *Neuro-Typicals that all people who have *Aspergers’ Syndrome or who are on the *autistic spectrum are like Raymond Babbit from Rain Man or Christopher Boon from the Curious Incident of The Dog In The Night-time. They are not.

There are millions of high-functioning *Aspies we meet every day who are on the autistic spectrum who talk, walk and act like any other person. In many cases, especially in females, it is an invisible disorder. But they suffer terribly because their minds are wired differently and they cannot understand why they feel the way they do.

Many ordinary-looking ‘sufferers’ are affected by sensory stimulus such as noises, lights and external images that make them feel overwhelmed. A large proportion are socially awkward, but quite a number are not and are so vocal they will talk to anybody who appears to be listening. But in each case, a great number become frustrated because days like Autism Awareness do nothing but add to the misconception that everyone on the autistic spectrum is the same: Odd. Weirdo. Strange. Irritating. Geeky. Nerdy. Brain damaged. Obsessed. To be mocked. To be avoided.

If you really want to know what it is like for the millions who have *High-functioning Autism, please borrow some books from the library. Some great ones I’ve read are:

Inside Asperger’s Looking Out by Kathy Hoopmann

The Girl with the Curly Hair by Alis Rowe

The Boy with the Spiky Hair by Alis Rowe

There’s enough mis-understanding in this world. It’s a shame that people are adding to it by stereo-typing autism. Those who have ASD are lovely people with beautiful minds, who just think differently from you and I, but deserve the respect to be understood properly.

 

GLOSSARY

Neuro-Typicals: Anybody who does not have autism.

Aspies: A fond name for people who have Asperger’s Syndrome (low or high functioning, but usually used to describe those who are high-functioning)

Low-functioning Autism: Those who act and look obviously specials needs, talk in a monotone voice, struggle using proper language patterns, make odd noises, have obvious learning difficulties or may be dependant on a carer.

ASD: Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

Asperger’s Syndrome: A form of autism particularly characterised by social anxiety, social awkwardness, obsessive interests & behaviours, unusual hobbies, repetitive behaviours, resistance to physical touch, sensory stimulus overload, misunderstanding of literal speech, lack of social skills, desire to be alone, unawareness of the feelings and needs of others, unmalicious blunt and insensitive speech.

Autistic Spectrum: imagine a temperature chart going from freezing cold to boiling hot. Some people on that chart who have severe behavioural issues and learning difficulties would be near the freezing mark, whereas others can be obviously inept but have genius-like minds in one particular area, such as maths or science and would be in the middle. Others may be doctors, university students, actors, teachers, office workers, scientists and be near boiling point but struggle in many areas typical of an autistic mind. The chart is wide and therefore autistic people fit all along the chart, pinpointing different temperatures. Stereo-typically, most people know of austism as being near the cool to freezing area of the chart, which is a totally inaccurate picture of this disorder.

Affected by sensory stimulus: where a texture, sound, smell or the sight of something is so overwhelming that the person will be emotionally affected to a great degree and will probably need to leave the room or will react in fear, exhaustion or anger.

High-functioning Autism / High-functioning Asperger’s. Someone on the high-end of the autistic spectrum who attended a normal school and has good qualifications and a good job. Teachers may not have recognised their condition and labelled them as obstinate, extremely shy/talkative, a little strange, very fussy, very particular, easily upset. Parents may not have recognised the condition until the start of high-school but there are many adults that are classed as late-diagnosis cases, because their condition wasn’t recognised correctly during childhood. They do not relate to the characteristics of the autistic people on shows like ‘The Undateables’, as the people on there tend to be more low-functioning and therefore more obviously ‘special needs’.

Thank you for taking the time to read this through. Not every autistic person can memorise the phone book and count cocktail sticks from the floor, but they all have a special mind given to them by God for a special task during their life on earth.

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