Clarification offered about autism
May 6, 2021
To The Eagle:
There were some misleading things in your April 22 article "April is Autism Awareness Month." First, demographics. Autism is not a childhood condition. It's lifelong: you don't grow out of it. You just learn to live with it. One in 54 is the current estimate of the percentage of people who are autistic, not the percent of children currently diagnosed. Most autistics (especially older ones) are not diagnosed. (I was diagnosed in adulthood.) Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed because almost all studies are about boys, and the stereotype is a white boy who plays with trains. White boys get diagnosed, white girls get ignored, and black and brown children get labeled as having discipline problems.
Second, the article focuses on social difficulties as the main symptom. Those are merely one part of a complex condition. People focus on that aspect because it's the most obvious on the surface. For those of us living with the condition, other things are as or more important. Sensory processing difficulties mean we are easily overwhelmed by sounds, tastes, textures (or sometimes are desperate for stimulation). Executive functioning problems give us difficulties similar to ADD/ADHD.
Third, most adult autistics are against behavioral therapy because it focuses on surface behaviors with no understanding of the root causes. For example, many repetitive behaviors (stimming) autistics do are ways of self-soothing to help us deal with a world that is overwhelming our senses and provoking deep anxiety. Training someone not to stim doesn't fix the problem, just denies them the ability to cope with it, often creating much larger problems down the road. Accommodation and support for sensory needs is the long-term sustainable path to stability.
On the bright side, the sensory room the Wahkiakum School District is working on sounds amazing, and I wish my school had had one when I was a child!
If anyone wants to know more about autism and being autistic, I'd love to help. You can reach me through Chinook Lutheran Church or Naselle Lutheran Church.