I can’t believe it’s been ~19 months since my last blog post! Life has certainly been interesting around here…life, death, crises, school, you name it. One thing that I have been reflecting on is how our perspectives change as our life circumstances change. I know, so obvious, right? But, it’s true.
When my son with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) was younger, I was exclusively interested in issues pertaining to him: special education, occupational therapy, intensive interventions for ASD, etc. However, now that he is older (in college!), my focus has been on young adulthood: high school age and beyond. I still—very much—appreciate the issues facing younger people with ASD, but my primary interest is on the stages from high school and above.
As I reflect on our journey (meaning that of my son and our family as an example), it points out a fundamental difference between the challenges facing those in the world of autism and those with other disabilities. In what other disability community is there such a deep divide between those who want to discover a “cure” and those who want research into causes? In what other disability community is there a class ranking the severity of the disability (high functioning, low functioning)? Why the disparagement of organizations which do not do/believe/act as “we” believe they should? Why are we—the autism community—not operating as a single unit?
Here’s my belief: autism spectrum disorder covers a broad group of individuals who are really too heterogeneous. And yet (my English teacher would HATE that—beginning a sentence with “and” was taboo for so long!), we must work together. I was talking to a mother just recently about her son, who was exhibiting aggressive behaviors (biting, kicking, scratching). You might think that I would not have anything in common with her situation. My son with ASD never had a problem with those behaviors. (Well, except when he and his older brother fought. But he had a good reason then!) Yet, even though my son is in college and quite successful, he still has ASD. His symptoms are different, yes; he has different challenges, yes; he still has ASD. He shares common characteristics, albeit to a lesser degree: difficulty with social interactions, difficulty with communication, and atypical behaviors.
So, I encourage all of us in the field of autism to collaborate, to consolidate, and to focus not on dissension but on cooperation. We have come a long way, but we still have far to go.