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On Symptoms – Autism

In my last article related to Autism, I talked about the idea that one’s ability to relate to folks so diagnosed, is based on the ability and willingness to actually get to know the person in question in order to do so.

In this post, I wanted to take a moment to deal with some examples of the sort of things about which I was speaking in the previous one.

One of the things that seems to be well accepted among many folks who deal with Autism, is the idea that the people with whom they deal will have what are generally referred to as “sensory issues.”

For the most part, this means that part of the expectation many—if not most—people dealing with Autistic folks have, is that those people will be unable to tolerate loud noises, particularly for extended periods of time.

I can’t speak to how common a thing that is, nor can I say whether there is a specific “population or level” for which it is more common. I’ve seen instances where folks made special concessions for people who appeared to have such issues, but I have to tell you, I have never personally met an Autistic person that I knew was Autistic (which generally implies they were at the least moderately Autistic), where the Autistic person appears to have general issues with “sensory overload.”

Am I trying to imply this is not something that happens? Not at all! Am I intending to say that it’s not common? No. That having been said, I can tell you that, whether children I have met as a result of my son attending school, or people I have met as a result of “running into them” various places, I have seen very little evidence that children who are moderately Autistic (or on the “moderate end of severe” Autism) are prone to “sensory overload” issues.

Where my own son is concerned, there are a good many circumstances in which he would prefer to not find himself, some of them noisy, some not. Equally, there a number of situations he likes, or even thrives in, some raucous, some not quite “library level still.” If he enjoys a particular environment or occurrence, the fact that it’s loud or quiet seems to have little bearing on any part of his behavior or ability to deal with it.

This is but one example of things I have heard said (and even said myself early on) about Autistic folks that I find to be questionable at best—at least where people I know are concerned.

Another example is the “dislike of change” people believe characteristic of Autistic folks. Again, I can only speak for people I know (and most particularly, for my own son), but I can tell you that—at least in the long run—my son is no more resistant to change than are most children.

To be sure, there are many things to which he would prefer to not transition, and this is particularly true if the thing he’s transitioning from is something he enjoys. Put simply, his choice to easily or quickly transition from one thing to another depends on how much he likes the thing he’s transitioning from and equally, how much he likes or dislikes the thing to which he is transitioning. I defy you to find a child for whom, to some degree, this is not the case.

The difference for Garrett, is more how he responds when he doesn’t like the change. To make myself clear, there is one trait I find to be rather common among Autistic children, it is referred to as the “meltdown.” I—and I’m sure most parents of Autistic children—have found ways to mitigate, and even largely to eliminate meltdowns. Once the meltdowns are reduced to a manageable level, if not entirely eliminated, suddenly, the problems with transitions tend to be less obvious than before that occurs.

I’ll readily allow the idea that there are many children who more or less just, “go with the flow.” Little to nothing bothers them, and when things do bother them, they just tend to live with it. That being said, I know you have met non Autistic children who “pitched fits” when they were told they had to move from something they liked to something they didn’t (and hey, let’s face it, how many adults feel like doing likewise?).

The point here is, I think a lot of things seen as “traits” or “symptoms” of Autism are generally at least heavily overstated. Again, in deference to parents and caregivers who must deal with children for whom the tendencies in question are definitely existent, I “tip my proverbial hat.”

Part of the point of my previous article, was to make it clear that each individual—to say nothing of Autistic folks—must be dealt with by considering his or her own set of traits. Two children considered to be unaffected by any particular condition will still be different. The same applies to two Autistic or two ADHD children. Really, since it applies to children not diagnosed with any particular condition, it more or less stands to reason that it will be true for two children who have some condition or other.

Obviously, this leads to the main conclusion of my prior piece—that each Autistic (or ADHD, or child with whatever condition, or “normal child”) must be “learned” or understood to help him or her to benefit from whatever activity he or she may be expected to participate in.

All of this seems obvious, the problem is, people have a habit of either paying the concept no mind, or failing to recognize its existence.

Though it should probably be expected that most folks nearing or “entering” adulthood should need less concession than those who are younger, to some degree, it should be assumed that this must be true for older folks, as well as children. What you should have taken from the former statement though, is that it is all but imperative for younger folks.

Final thought? Though the assumption exists that certain things are true for particular populations of folks, it should be understood that the things expected are not necessarily true (at least not as generally as people would like to believe). This certainly applies to Autistic folks, and I’m sure, to just about every population of individuals imaginable.

Okay, here I am again at the end of a composition. Hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have penning it. Regardless that, thanks for doing so, and may your time be good.

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