Autism. Aspergers. Autistic Spectrum Disorder. ASD … These are all conditions that begin with the letter A. When you think of these conditions, your first thought might be to feel sorry for the mother, father or carer of the child with the diagnosis. Maybe you feel scared of hearing such a diagnosis for your child. You might think that this will mean that they will be limited throughout their lives. Unable to live independently or needing lots of extra help to do day to day tasks and, well, just live their lives. But what if I told you that, yes. Autism and many other developmental conditions on the autistic spectrum might need you to parent slightly differently, they might need you to alter life as you know it, but that, actually, children and adults with ASD can achieve absolutely awesome things. They can go further than anyone might ever think and can, quite often, far surpass their more neurotypical counterparts at school and at work. Put simply, those with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder are amazing!
My daughter, Olivia has ASD. She was diagnosed as high functioning on the spectrum when she was around 5 years old, but in reality that term itself is quite ambiguous. She excels far beyond her peers in literacy but can struggle with social cues and she will often use a stock response that she thinks fits when asked a question. She is a whiz on an iPad and is the funniest, most loving and affectionate little girl I’ve ever met. She has taught me things about myself that I didn’t know, and we’ve muddled through various life events a bit like a mother/daughter version of Laurel and Hardy. She is totally amazing. People have asked me in the past if I wished Olivia didn’t have autism. That’s a very difficult question to answer. Because, as much as it can break my heart to see her struggling with some things that other neurotypical children do with ease, it’s the autism that makes her Olivia. Having autism is not something to feel sad about, nor is it ever something to pity someone for, or to treat someone differently because of. It’s simply a different way of seeing the world.
As time and research is progressing we are finding out more and more about this fascinating disorder with it’s quirks, talents and abilities. One thing I know for definite – autism actually rocks! Autism allows you to see, hear and experience the world in fine detail – beautiful things are more beautiful, music is more tuneful and everything is experienced in super sharp detail. People with autism are brutally honest and will tell you how it is without batting an eyelid! With a keen eye for the most minute of details, autistic people are highly sought after employees for scientific careers with the Israeli Military specifically recruiting those with autism for surveillance roles. Michael Barton, author of “It’s Raining Cats and Dogs” and “A Different Kettle of Fish”, himself diagnosed with high functioning autism, gave a truly fascinating and incredibly positive talk about autism at the Welsh Autism Show and stated that whilst it may well seem like those with autism don’t fit into a neurotypical world, maybe it’s actually that the neurotypical among us, don’t fit into an autistic’s world. My daughter – thanks to her autism – lives in the moment and she makes the very most of it too. Her school friends love her because of her differences; her ASD makes her so truly unique. She has gifts and talents that many would love and it’s thanks to her autism. From a parenting perspective nobody would ever say that it is easy, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
You may not know….
- In the UK alone, approximately 700,000 people are on the autistic spectrum. Statistically, that means that for every 100 people in the UK at least one person will be diagnosed.
- This means that in England alone, 120,000 school children have an autistic spectrum disorder.
- Boys are far more likely to have a diagnosis of ASD than girls. It’s unclear whether this is because boys are more likely to be on the spectrum or just that medical professionals are less able to spot the signs of autism in girls. Girls and boys with autism can present very differently despite both being on the spectrum.
- Famous people with Autism include: the actor, Dan Ackroyd; the late Apple CEO, Steve Jobs; the actress, Daryl Hannah and the creator of Pokemon, Satoshi Tajiri.
- Many retailers such as ASDA, Tesco, and Toys ‘r’ Us, among others, have an autism hour whereby the lights are dimmed, music is turned off and the atmosphere is calmer in order to enable those with autism to shop without experiencing sensory overload.
- Although there is no cure for autism, the earlier that an individual receives help, the better the overall outlook for them.
- Contrary to belief, individuals with autism can be incredibly affectionate.
- Autistic individuals with an extraordinary and profound talent to do things that many others can not are called savants. One such example is Stephen Wiltshire. A gifted artist, he is able to recreate on paper a city skyline to minute detail upon seeing it only once.
There are many, many more facts and figures that I could provide all about autism, but to list them all here would take up the whole day!
You can find out more about autism from the National Autistic Society here
Michael Barton has written several books designed to teach the neurotypical among us the literal way an autistic person will interpret language. Patron of the South East London Charity CASPA, you can read more about him and his work here
For families in South East London living with autism – contact CASPA for further advice and clubs for those of all ages living with autism and their parents and carers
This post is part of our A-Z of Parenting series where we take a look at the whole alphabet of things that can go right – or wrong – with parenting. A new letter is added every couple of days. Check out what’s happened so far here.
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