what is autism
Now, I could go through quite a lot of explanation here and no doubt quite a few people would either be lost and/ or at the end still not understand about Autism. Therefore, rather than do that myself I have found one of the best explanations that I have ever come across, written by Nick Walker, about “ What is Autism?”.
“Autism is a genetically based human neurological variant. The complex set of interrelated characteristics that distinguish autistic neurology from non-autistic neurology is not yet fully understood, but current evidence indicates that the central distinction is that autistic brains are characterized by particularly high levels of synaptic connectivity and responsiveness. This tends to make the autistic individual’s subjective experience more intense and chaotic than that of non-autistic individuals: on both the sensorimotor and cognitive levels, the autistic mind tends to register more information, and the impact of each bit of information tends to be both stronger and less predictable.
Autism is a developmental phenomenon, meaning that it begins in utero and has a pervasive influence on development, on multiple levels, throughout the lifespan. Autism produces distinctive, atypical ways of thinking, moving, interaction, and sensory and cognitive processing. One analogy that has often been made is that autistic individuals have a different neurological “operating system” than non-autistic individuals.
According to current estimates, somewhere between one percent and two percent of the world’s population is autistic. While the number of individuals diagnosed as autistic has increased continually over the past few decades, evidence suggests that this increase in diagnosis is the result of increased public and professional awareness, rather than an actual increase in the prevalence of autism.
Despite underlying neurological commonalities, autistic individuals are vastly different from one another. Some autistic individuals exhibit exceptional cognitive talents. However, in the context of a society designed around the sensory, cognitive, developmental, and social needs of non-autistic individuals, autistic individuals are almost always disabled to some degree – sometimes quite obviously, and sometimes more subtly.
The realm of social interaction is one context in which autistic individuals tend to consistently be disabled. An autistic child’s sensory experience of the world is more intense and chaotic than that of a non-autistic child, and the ongoing task of navigating and integrating that experience thus occupies more of the autistic child’s attention and energy. This means the autistic child has less attention and energy available to focus on the subtleties of social interaction. Difficulty meeting the social expectations of non-autistics often results in social rejection, which further compounds social difficulties and impedes social development. For this reason, autism has been frequently misconstrued as being essentially a set of “social and communication deficits,” by those who are unaware that the social challenges faced by autistic individuals are just by-products of the intense and chaotic nature of autistic sensory and cognitive experience.
Autism is still widely regarded as a “disorder,” but this view has been challenged in recent years by proponents of the neurodiversity model, which holds that autism and other neurocognitive variants are simply part of the natural spectrum of human biodiversity, like variations in ethnicity or sexual orientation (which have also been pathologised in the past). Ultimately, to describe autism as a disorder represents a value judgment rather than a scientific fact.”
Now that is what I call an explanation xx
For those not in the “know”, Asperger’s Syndrome is what some people refer to as “High Functioning” Autism and in some cases “High Functioning Autism” is referred to as “like Asperger’s Syndrome but with childhood speech delays”. I am fully aware and read many comments about “low” and “high” functioning and parents, carers and even those with Autism who have a dislike for this kind of grouping. I, personally, don’t really like these labels because it can feel as though it is dismissive of the issues that people struggle to cope with . It is also just another “label” for people to get far too consumed with rather than actually dealing with real issues, in my opinion.
What does autism look like?
Well, I can tell you that while Rain Man was a good film, for me, it is not what Autism looks like. I think that the media has a lot to answer for with regards to the many preconceived ideas and misconceptions that the general population believe in and ‘expects’ Autism to look like. Perhaps they expect someone who is a bit dishevelled with no eye contact, rocking in a corner, unable to speak, but really good with numbers and dates? Is that what people expect? Who knows? These kinds of stereotypes often have a very detrimental effect to those with Autism and their loved ones. I know, from my own experiences, that I don’t ‘look autistic’ to others or at least that is what others tell me, to my face. In fact, from what it seems, I think when people see me they see a very confident, nice, bubbly, chatty person who loves her kids and her family. To me though, ASD is part of my beautiful little boy, with his big blue eye and smiling face, The Bear. It is in every one of his achievements, every sweet comment and every contagious giggle. Autism is also a part of my gorgeous older son, The Enforcer, who expresses himself with such amazing feeling when he reads and articulates himself so eloquently, that even adults are amazed. Autism can be: seeing beauty in the small things, the interest in the details and can be the views that open up new worlds to others. Autism could be the child you see in the shops that you choose to stare and shake your head disapprovingly at, as his mother tries her best to overt the 5th meltdown of the day, just to get a few bits of food. Autism could be that guy you know from the office who is really good at world of war craft and always talks to you about the one subject you ever had in common, over and over every conversation. Autism could be that woman who puts on her “social mask” every day just to get by without a fuss, but who seems to not have as many friends as you thought. Is it difficult to live with? Absolutely. Does it sometimes break your heart and steal your last bits of inner strength? Over and over again, yes! Does it mean there is no future to look forward to and only struggles ahead? Most certainly not! Yes, Autism affects the family as a whole not just the individual but with those hard times comes the most amazing and truly wonderful moments that few could really appreciate so whole-heartily. Autism is not just a specific idea or vision or even one version, it is as diverse as the universe and just as complex.