HEALTH PLUS MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT
Within our history, we can easily find those opportunities to be in ‘awe’. Indeed, history is full of people who many consider to be or have been somewhere on the autism spectrum.
Michelangelo – Sculptor, Painter, Architect, Poet
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Classical Composer
Sir Isaac Newton – Mathematician, Astronomer and Physicist
Tim Burton – Movie Director
Lewis Carroll – Author of “Alice in Wonderland”
Though the term "autism" first appeared around 1911, very little was known or medically researched about autism spectrum disorder until the late 20th century. Autism is currently defined by a certain set of behaviours and is a “spectrum condition” that affects people differently and to varying degrees. However, as we learn more about Autism, these definitions evolve.
One thing we know for certain is “Autistics are an infinite spectrum of possibilities.”
Every April, World Autism Month is commemorated, beginning with United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2nd. Throughout the month, focus is placed on providing opportunities to increase awareness, understanding and acceptance of persons with autism, fostering worldwide support.
New discoveries and advancements continue to be made today to help individuals on the spectrum achieve their full potential. While there is currently no known single cause of autism, “Early diagnosis and intervention with individualized therapy is crucial. It helps a person receive the support and services that they need and is beneficial for improved social functioning and communication and improved quality of life for the child and family” Dr Danielle Nixon Moncrieffe, previous Chief of Paediatrics, Reliant Medical Group, Massachusetts, USA shared. This opinion is echoed by our specialists here as well.
Currently, boys are also approximately 4.5 times more likely to have an autism diagnosis than girls of the same age. However, recent research suggests that girls may not show autism in the same way as boys and might go undiagnosed because of that.
Here are some signs to look for:
- Speaks later than typical or not at all (nonverbal)
- Repetition in language or movement, such as repeating the same word or sounds, hand flapping, or any repeated movement
- Atypical nonverbal communication, including avoiding eye contact, giving few facial expressions, or having a monotone
- Prefers solitary or parallel play rather than engaging in associative or cooperative play with other children
- Extremely distressed by changes, including new foods or changes in schedule
- Preference for predictable, structured play over spontaneous or make-believe play
- Strong, persistent interest on specific topic, part of a toy, or item
[For more information on developmental milestones, visit the CDC’s “Learn the Signs. Act Early” site.]
The neurodiversity paradigm emphasises the switch away from the puzzle representation to that of the infinity sign. The narrative we choose is specific as, “It is not a disability, or in need of curing or being solved.”
“The world of autism is a world of discovery. Although parents often struggle to understand or to cope with challenging behaviour, sometimes a breakthrough in communication, or a simple baby step forward, a discovery as it were, can bring great clarity, understanding and a sense of victory” shares Dr Debra Bartholomew, mother and Autism Advocate.
Each and every autistic person brings something new to the world. They face the world through their unique lens and if we are fortunate enough, we can also experience their AWE-TISM.