Updated: Nov 19, 2020
Many of you are familiar with Autism Spectrum Disorder commonly known as ASD maybe through movies, reading about it in the news, or on different sites.
I have noticed, after reading the stuff on ASD, people tend to have a more biased opinion, which leads to prejudice and stereotyping of the people on ASD. There is no choice of being born as “perfect”, you are what you are! Nature selection is random and it’s an evolution, people will be born on spectrum knowing or unknowingly.
When the family is told that their kid is on the spectrum, they try to turn every stone to fix the kid. Statistically, most of these kids have intelligence gifted to them; despite they are weaker at other areas of lives, like socializing, doing daily tasks, etc.
I have seen several autistic persons on the internet sharing their frustrations, especially over their families for lecturing them as to how to fix their shortcomings, hyper-sensitivities, or stims (things they do to cool down when there is too much neurological rush).
They are appreciated for their intelligence only if it is discovered but not accepted for their oddities, which they have inherited along with the gifted mind. In certain situations, they have no choice and can’t avoid the monotonous behavior like move to and fro, talk repetitively, rush to bathroom or rock and roll their chairs, etc.
Their “odd” behaviors are compared with other people’s symptoms like anxieties, stuttering, etc. They think it can be fixed. Understanding is very important, believe me, it cannot be fixed, but can be managed. A good example is to fix myopia of a person, which cannot be mended, just coped. Only because of such “fixing efforts” that the kid goes into total emotional lock down and sometimes it may become very severe.
Most of the time, they have a focus on just one thing, which is their strong point. It is their strength. This is how their brain works; telling them to do otherwise will create conflicts, confusion, and lots of chemical imbalances, which may further complicate the learning of the kid.
One of my colleague’s sons is on the spectrum, and like all other parents, they are concerned. They can see that he is gifted and has one particular interest i.e. drawing and painting, but according to them he always makes the same kind of things with his transformers toys. Mum had tried to make different things or patterns with him; this led to a loss of interest in his favorite achievement. Certain loud sounds bother him and when he has to focus on anything in the class, he started to move to and fro while standing. He is overwhelmed by neurological input to his brain. This is the only way he can calm himself down and pay attention. It may be that the question he was asked was not planned so he’s started such behavior to relax as well to concentrate. Nothing will happen if the teacher tells him that it is okay and ask him to take his time answering the question and treat it like a regular thing.
Kids on the spectrum have different ticks according to their hypo or hypersensitivities. Sometimes they are non-verbal and mostly they do it through writing. They will not behave like a regular mute person but will react to all the stimuli. The main problems in dealing with these kids are:
Constantly telling them to fit in
Instead of understanding them, feeling pity for them
No regards for their shortness in regular life or their stims
Think they are doing it on purpose
Intelligence is there but doesn’t care to use it
There are several other problems in handling them. Surprisingly, sometimes the physicians advise the parents to put them in some special facilities. That’s what happened to a family in the USA. Dad didn’t listen to the doc and instead kept the kid with him and soon found his interest in a game and later he was participating in the championship of that game, nevertheless; he does have difficulties in doing simple chores, but he got a life now.
The above example stipulates the role of the parents and people who are caring and dealing with them one way or the other.
Their motor activity may be slow, but their feeling department is highly developed. Naturally; if one doesn’t water the plants or doesn’t put them in the sunshine, the plant is going to wilt which has a clear chance to grow otherwise with a little care.
The more you misunderstand the autistic kid, the more it affects their learning abilities; moreover, they can be emotionally hurt and live with it forever. There are lots of unprocessed frustrations, along with restlessness; some come with autism and others in handling and mismanaging them. Don’t lose hope, if you have dealt with an ASD kid somehow in the wrong way in the past, due to lack of knowledge or maybe you were in denial. If you take one step in the right direction towards these kids today, they will take hundreds towards you. Do the math yourself! The bond you are going to have with them will be one of a kind. It will give you strength and happiness.
These kids just need more support in daily life. Parents have to give them the chance and the space they deserve. The doctor may give you the diagnosis but in the end, you are the one who can acknowledge their capabilities as well as accept their shortcomings.
When parents or guardians try to fix them, things will never improve. The reason is simple if one tries to ask a sloth to move faster or ask a rabbit to hang upside down all day; the result will be a total disaster. The best approach is to understand them.
One misconception about these kids is that they are not empathetic towards others. They may not express, but to my personal experience, I have not seen more compassionate people other than these individuals.
Let me tell you a story. Once, during a dinner in a restaurant, we were informed that it’s my colleague’s son’s birthday. We decided to buy him a gift after dinner; the kid was 5 years old (it the same kid I have talked above). I took her to a nearby superstore and ask her to just walk through and buy anything which he loves and wanted to buy. To my much astonishment, he bought a very regular, least expensive transformer toy, despite nobody, not even his mom, asked him to be careful with the price. It gave me such happiness to know how much he was aware of the world around him.
They are very observant. They become sad and feel the worries of their parents about them; only because their parents think they are odd. They tried to fit in and will sacrifice their happiness only to make their parents pleased and proud. Again, I will say we are asking something from them which they can’t give right away.
Their feelings are deep; maybe their reaction is different or late because they think differently. When treated well and given the confidence they start to open up and express their feelings. They will be more aware of the world and their selves eventually. They just need a fair chance like the rest of us. People sympathize with them, but what they need is the support not just in mere words but with actions. They want somebody to spend time with them and talk about their interests. The ticks force them to social isolation sometimes; they can’t mix with their peers during a game or in a class etc. They can’t join them in the playground but to watch them quietly playing but want to do something in their lives too just like others. May be their style will never be the same, but passion will be immense. When they discover their unique gift and their talents; only then they can kick start living their lives and start taking interest in the world around them.
When they are bothered (ticks, unable to correlate) by something, it’s not like it will go away if they don’t talk about it. At that point in the process, they think they are trapped in a maze and nobody is there to bring them out. The window for them is very narrow, the difference is puny when comes to sanity and insanity. The reason is simple: it’s a neurological condition if manage properly, and by looking for their unique gift, they can have a life just like all of us or maybe better.
I remember a story about Einstein. While working in a patent office, once he wrote to his father “I wish I would never be born!”! His sister declared in very clear words that “he is the stupidest and the dumbest person ever and cannot be taught anything”. Of course, everybody knows that he was an ASD. I am pretty sure that you don’t want your kids with ASD to feel like that; instead, you will want him/her to be filled with love and give the world some unique gift as Einstein gave.
Happy Autism day: we all are autistic in one way or the other, but we can just hide better!