Friday, April 10, 2015

Debunking some autism myths

My daughter was diagnosed as ADHD, Aspergers, cognitive disorder and being borderline in three areas over a period of time ranging from age nine and onward.

In that time, I've heard a lot of things stated as truth which just weren't, not for us. I'm going to unpack some of those ideas here today, since we're in Autism Awareness Month.

People with autism are all a savant in something. What is the thing she's brilliant at

math, music, or art?

Since the number being bandied about on the news and social media is that 1/68 people are diagnosed with autism, one would think this myth would debunk itself. My daughter is pretty good about telling you facts about animals (she can name a tiny lizard, indigenous only to whatever region, and tell you what it likes to eat and other random details) and she can tell you all about Black Veil Brides. She can't write a sonnet or a symphony, although I'm sure if she devoted all of her time to it, she could learn those things over a period of time and probably do an okay job. But that's the deal—she'd have to devote all of her time to learning it. For a long time. Nothing has ever magically come easily for her and, although she's wonderful...she's never going to wake up as Rain Man. Not all of them are genius at one particular thing, but I think the myth of this being true stemmed out of a lot of movies dedicated to rare cases... not the average kid on the spectrum.

You can tell by looking at a person whether or not they are on the autism spectrum.

Nope, no you cannot.

You can recognize whether a kid is on the autism spectrum within moments of listening to them talk/seeing how they act.

Nope, no you cannot. It is called a spectrum because there is a wide and diverse array of disability within the range, and all of it is shoved under the vague banner of "autism spectrum." Some of these kids are non-verbal. Some are really verbal. Some are hyper. Some just sit and stare. You can no more guess at someone's diagnosis than you can accurately look at a child and rattle off their social security number. It isn't printed on their forehead...and the diagnosis often changes as the kid ages. You just learn more about a child as they grow in general. *shrug* It is that simple and that complex all at once.

If you're the parent of a child with autism, you're very patient.

Ha! Ha-ha-ha! So, do you think that at some point in the pregnancy, the magical blue fairy of patience came and smacked me with her wand, gifting me with the magical power of patience in preparation for parenting my child? Nope. Either that or the fairy skipped me.

Doctors just give that title to kids of parents who want attention. There is no real medical issue, it is all made up.

Years. That's how long my daughter has been under various doctors' care. Years of testing, of reevaluating, of revisiting... specialists, neurologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, school aid, physical and occupational and speech therapists... And none of those appointments was magically convenient for me, as a single parent of THREE (all of whom needed my attention) children. I never had the time for the "attention," and all of the various doctors/specialists have degrees in their area of specialty. Somehow, I think those years of med school mean they don't just hand out diagnosis like Halloween candy.

Those are some I can think of off the top of my head. If I were to sum up the myths of autism in a sentence, it would probably be...

Everyone is different. Get to know them before you make assumptions.

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