Last week we had Ollie’s official diagnosis of autism.
I’d known for a while that he has autism but I haven’t said much about it until it was official because if you are a Mom of a child with autism, you’ll be aware that everyone thinks they have autism. So I wasn’t going to be one of these people that goes along with thinking they or their kid has autism.
While I was waiting for his official diagnosis I also did a short course in Understanding Autism because I find that the problem with autism is that people are not educated on the subject.
Fair enough, why would you be if you have no need to be. But I had a need to be!
So I officially understand autism now. I genuinely believe that the people best equipped to understand autism are mothers of children with autism. Not to sound arrogant but some of the professionals I’ve encountered don’t understand the way that I do.
This is a mini rant/ education for people and something to consider next time you hear somebody has autism.
You do not have autism.
(Ok, you might but most likely you don’t.)
For every five people I tell Ollie has autism, I can guarantee one of them will reply, ‘I think I’ve got autism.” Or “I’m on the spectrum.”
I fully acknowledge what they are trying to do, the intentions are honourable. You’re trying to say, ‘Don’t worry it’s normal, everyone has it.’ You’re wrong. By definition it’s the very opposite of normal. It is defined as neurodiverse as opposed to neurotypical.
Normal/ not normal has come to have negative connotations in our modern language but all it means in social science terminology is ‘most people’. Normal is no autism because most people don’t have it.
I’m not offended by the notion that Ollie isn’t normal because he’s not. He’s not like the other kids and I fully embrace that. So by trying to imply that it’s normal, you’ve instantly displayed a distinct lack of understanding.
The spectrum that people believe they’re on, is a spectrum of autism. Everybody absolutely is not on the spectrum. The spectrum refers to people with autism and their diagnosis will range from mild to severe. You can have a mildly autistic person or a severely autistic person. We don’t have people that display mild traits and people that are on the severe end and come across as autistic.
It’s silly to suggest such a thing. Would you say, we’re all on the cancer spectrum. My symptoms are contained and not manifesting so I’m on the mild end but old man dying in bed over there is severely cancerous? It’s ridiculous isn’t it? But this is how people view autism and they are wrong.
You can only be on the spectrum if you have autism.
If you’ve had the thought “I think I’ve got autism” the chances are you don’t. Based purely on the fact that you think you’ve got autism.
Have you heard the phrase, ‘If you think you’re mad you’re probably not’?
It basically means people that display insane behaviour do not think there is anything wrong, they think they’re doing the right thing. If you think you’re mad because you like to get drunk and strip off and steal traffic cones, you’re not because you can acknowledge that it isn’t normal. A mad person would see it as ok.
It’s the same with autism. A person with autism doesn’t line up coins head facing up and think, blimey why did I do that, that’s weird. Its their normal. If you say you’re autistic because you like your tins in alphabetical order, you have acknowledged your reasoning.
A common thing I hear is, “I’m autistic because I don’t like small talk.” If you had autism you wouldn’t understand abstract concepts. You wouldn’t understand that some social situations require small talk so people don’t experience an awkward silence. You wouldn’t be able to read that in a social context.
People with autism generally have limited emotion in terms of reading a situation and with Ollie it is simply, positive or negative. Do I feel good or bad here? Good he’ll take his shoes off and stay. Bad he’ll say no thanks and try and drag me away. I can’t say how this develops with age but young children rarely have deep layers of emotion such as embarrassment, awkwardness or self consciousness.
So if you can acknowledge that you feel awkward with new people – it’s not likely to be autism. In fact my observation of adults that feel they have autism are actually suffering with anxiety.
Please just bear this in mind when people tell you somebody they know has autism.
Although you think you’re being understanding and helpful, it’s actually the opposite. It is a lack of understanding and you’re dismissing that autism is a real condition that affects certain people, not everyone.