On Outgrowing Autism

outgrowing autismSomeone commented to me recently about how my son’s particularities reminded him of his own son. He joked about his son, saying, “If he’d ever been tested as a child…who knows what they [the doctors] would have diagnosed him with!” I’ve heard similar statements many times before, and, while I know they are well-intentioned (meant to show similarities between typically developing children and those on the spectrum), they still bother me.

The Problem with Autism Labels

“Your son’s test results are consistent with a classic autism diagnosis.”

I stared at the psychologist and waited for her to continue. But she didn’t.

“Is it PDD-NOS? Or Asperger’s?” I asked.

“No,” she continued. “In order to be diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, he can’t have a language delay, which he clearly has. And he has enough symptoms that fall into the classic autism category of the spectrum.”

He’s Going to Make It: A Story of Autism Perseverance and Acceptance

Individuals on the spectrum shouldn’t have to fight to survive and function each day. I’ve heard individuals on the spectrum often speak about the exhaustion of managing their schedules each day because they are trying to live in a world that isn’t always aware of and sensitive to their needs. Jodie Van de Wetering, an autistic writer from Australia, explained this to me once, saying,

“It is over and above what a neurotypical person would need, and it is disheartening sometimes that I need three timers, a whiteboard and endless reminders and checklists to achieve what other people seem to be able to do with nothing more than a slim diary. But it’s not about doing what other people do, or looking sleek and elegant. It’s about getting the job done, and this is what I need to do that.”

This reminded me of how my son fought for survival after being born 3 months early and the subsequent obstacles he has faced with a diagnosis of cerebral palsy and autism. This week I wanted to share a personal essay I wrote almost 4 years ago about how my son had been putting up a daily fight to survive and then develop after his extreme premature birth. He hadn’t yet been diagnosed with autism, but the specialists were already swarming with predictions about his future. Writing this was one of the first steps to understanding the variety of different ways autistic people experience the world and beginning to work towards supporting their needs and advocating for autism acceptance.

Enjoy!

Public Vs. Private Schools for Autistic Education

autistic education

Some parents insist a particular school model is best for autistic students, but the truth is, there is no perfect solution for every child. Every child has needs and considerations that vary in priority, and schools are staffed with personnel who vary in their ability to meet those needs, regardless of the institutional structure. This article will outline some of the main benefits and drawbacks of both public and private schools for autistic education as well as a list of essential considerations for selecting the right educational solution for your child. For a discussion on homogenous classrooms in an ABA setting, refer to our previous articles on this form of autistic education: Part 1 and Part 2.

Autism and Ableism This Holiday Season

autism and ableism

It’s the time of year when many people start thinking more about others, and charitable opportunities abound. While it’s wonderful to participate in various charitable activities, it’s also a good time of year to reflect on the difference between charity and ableism and how our own holiday activities and “charitable” mindsets might be assessed within these categories, especially towards individuals on the spectrum. Many autistics are outspoken on the topic of autism and ableism, yet many parents are completely unfamiliar with the term.

Carelessly Linking Autism to Violent Crime

linking autism to violent crime

We’ve all heard it. The media has been (intentionally or not) linking autism to violent crime over the past few years in the United States. A few years ago it was Sandy Hook. More recently it has been the Umpqua Community College Shooting. Mentioning that a shooter is on the spectrum along with a description of the violent crimes he has committed inaccurately inflates the significance of autism in these situations. People without intimate knowledge of autism hear this reporting and continue developing misconceptions and stereotypes about autistic people. The autistic community has spoken out on numerous occasions requesting that the media avoid making unwarranted connections because of the inaccuracies they imply and the damage the link does to people living on the spectrum.

How Not to React When Hearing About Someone’s Autism Diagnosis

hearing about someone's autism diagnosis

How many parents have heard: “He’s autistic? But he acts so normal!” Many respond this way to hearing a parent reveal a diagnosis because they think it would be considered a compliment. This statement emphasizes how someone looks a certain way and doesn’t address or acknowledge the state or experience of being autistic.

As psychologists learn more about the symptoms of autism and how they manifest themselves, the public, in turn has better recognized those affected, and more people are talking about it. Despite this increased “awareness” of what autism looks like, many people still fail to understand how the full range of symptoms affects how autistic people experience the world.

A lack of understanding can lead to unintentional offensive responses when first hearing about someone’s autism diagnosis. Much has been written by parents of autistic children trying to raise awareness of what these inappropriate responses are and how they make the parents feel. I’d like to approach this topic from a slightly different angle and explore how these inappropriate responses make the autistic child or adult feel and how we can best discuss autism with and among autistics.

A Case Against Retesting for Autism

retesting for autism

Are you wondering if you should get your child retested by a psychologist? You are not alone. Many parents of autistic children and autistic individuals themselves consider taking a second test to see if their symptoms still fall under the diagnostic criteria for autism. If an individual feels that he or she has been misdiagnosed, a reassessment may be a proper tool for identifying the accuracy of a diagnosis or determining a more appropriate diagnosis. However, I would caution parents against seeking out reassessments for their children in an effort to get rid of a diagnosis or a stigma attached to it.

Passing for Neurotypical

passing for neurotypical, stress, hiding

When I first heard someone on the spectrum talk about “passing,” I didn’t realize how this prevalent and conscious this effort was on the account of many autistics. The person I was speaking to was referring to “passing for neurotypical,” in other words, acting neurotypical enough that someone else wouldn’t recognize they were autistic. Outsiders often dismiss the severity of any disabling conditions when they see autistics who act non-autistic. However, many can pass for neurotypical only with great effort and feel pressured to act this way, living in constant stress over every small behavior and decision they make and never feeling accepted for who they are. To deepen understanding of the autistic pressure to pass for neurotypical, it’s important to read what other autistics are saying about passing and examine situations in our lives where we create this pressure for our children or for others.