Alas, we have come to the seventh and final part of the Autism Awareness Week series, where I have been trying to shed some light on the somewhat abstract concept known as autism, peeking behind the curtain so to speak on some of the traits, the positives, the challenges one faces as well as how autistics come across in film. If you’ve been following for this long, thank you. We’re on the home stretch (or run, I was never well-versed in marathon terminology) with one last point to bring about.
As a man who has had an upbringing and education from binging on science-fiction cinema (and been left wild a mild paranoia around robots), the future has always been of great interest to me. And the future for autism is something we should be looking over together.
Now, when I say the future of autism, I’m not talking about a future where everyone has a flying car (not that I wouldn’t want one) and humanity is fighting off robot armies (it could happen if Terminator and Matrix are anything to go buy), I’m talking about where autism will fit in the social climate.
Ideally, higher awareness would be the first thing on anyone’s mind. Groups of people range from having an in-depth knowledge, to a passing knowledge, to knowing the name ‘autism’ and little else. We need better awareness for autism and better materials describing the condition, OR materials that are more widely distributed to schools and companies.
Also, there’s the dreaded waiting game. For some children, even if parents are fairly certain their child is autistic, getting a diagnosis can be like taking the One Ring to Mordor… it takes a lot longer than you thought, running into no end of obstacles and completely wears you down in the process… although at least you don’t have to worry about being attacked by Orcs. Sometimes it can take several years before a parent can even get their child in front of a speech and language therapist.
Now, I recognize there’s a waiting list, a doctor’s time is like a phone battery constantly running on empty, but people NEED that diagnosis in order to get on with their lives. Unless they’re able to manipulate the space-time continuum, you can’t expect parents and children to pause their lives waiting for a diagnosis.
To cut a long story short otherwise we’d be here all day, parents need to have access to more direct information as to where to go or a diagnosis and need more of a speedy process. An autism diagnosis doesn’t have to be such a feet-dragging process.
Speaking of diagnosis, it will be interesting to see what context the diagnosis takes; firstly, in regards to a named diagnosis. Even though autism has been picking up steam since 1944, but many new factors have come to light over time, and we may find new forms of autism emerging. A most recent shake-up occurred in 2013 when the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition) literally rewrote the rulebook on autism diagnosis, with many conditions including autism, Asperger Syndrome (AS), pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD), are now all listed under the name autism spectrum disorder on a severity level of 1 to 3. Now my thoughts are either they felt these conditions were all too closely linked to be separated… or they just felt overloaded with acronyms(!)
Either way, even though many of these conditions are still heavily recognized in the autism circles to this day – I myself am quite fond of my Aspie status and have no intention of relinquishing it – this could impact how we diagnose people in the future and merits a closer look.
Now, at the risk of veering into Blade Runner territory, we’ve had practically a tidal wave of speculation over the years as to what causes autism – with explanations ranging from pregnancy complications, vaccine side-effects, random genetics – none of which have come any closer to revealing how autism develops. But some people insistently believe that something has to happen for children to develop autism. And I think it’s understandable, wanting that piece of mind. People are always a little unnerved by things that aren’t 100% clear. But based on my understanding of autism, the conclusion I have come to is…
…nothing happens to children. Autism simply happens. There’s no chain reaction or set of influences that mean that people are predetermined to be autistic. Autism can be just spontaneous, selecting people at random like some unseen game of eeny-meeny-meiny-moe, and people with autism just happen to be it.
We’ve also had certain groups looking for the possibility of a cure for autism, with some autistics believing their lives would be better off without it. I’m ashamed to confess, I used to be one of those people, trawling through internet sites as a teenager looking for anything that suggested autism cures. But since then, I’ve had a reality check – or the closest thing to a reality check – and now, I find the concept ludicrous. To take away a person’s autism would be to take away their uniqueness.
Yes, autistic people may come into the world with little understanding as to how to navigate it, but then again, who doesn’t? No one has even gotten where they are today without the support of parents, teachers and employers. The only difference is that because autism is a much more rarer personality type, the support is much more limited. I think if we lived in a world where 7 out of 10 people where autistic, support practices would be a lot more well-versed on the subject.
These are intriguing times for autism and for people on the spectrum, and I am fascinated to see what the future holds for autism how the condition and understanding of the condition will develop in the years to come. (And no, world domination is not on the cards for any of us. The fact that I would bring ban alcohol means I’d never get into power.) But maybe one day, autism could become common knowledge. And people with the condition will have more opportunities coming their way. 68% of autistics adults are currently out of work. We need to drive that number down.
As a group of animated animals frequently said, “That’s all, folks!” Thank for reading this series and hopefully, when you think of autism from here onwards, you won’t have that big question mark hanging over your head.
Finally, a big thank you to all of the people around the world who have worked tirelessly to raise awareness of autism. Whatever you’ve done, however you’ve done it, you’ve all given people like myself a voice, allowing so many issues to be heard and many fascinating stories to be told. This isn’t about winning a battle or anything quite as titanic as destroying a Death Star (knew I’d get a Star Wars reference in there somewhere!), but this is about making sure that people with autism have understanding and access to the same opportunities in life as anyone else.
If you have enjoyed this blog, check out the other articles in the Autism Awareness Week series!