If you are like most parents, the first thing you thought of when your child was diagnosed with Autism is, I am going to fix this. It’s natural. One moment you are a parent and the next moment you are a parent of a special needs child. There is a grieving period that takes place. Your child is not the child that you thought he would be. They are someone amazing and special but they are different. It’s okay to mourn that.
I started working with children with Autism in 2008. At the time, practitioners believed applied behavior analysis (ABA) could recover kids from Autism. We were given curriculums to use and told that if we could teach all of the lessons in the books to the kids, they wouldn’t be Autistic anymore. Their diagnosis would be removed and they would be recovered from Autism. That was the goal. Defeat Autism Now (DAN) doctors were becoming popular. Autism walks were still walks for the cure.
Today we know that Autism is not a disease and so naturally there is no cure. Autism is a neurological difference; it does not need a cure. A child with Autism will grow up into an Autistic adult. Many Autistic adults are able to work, go to school, start families, and live independently. As kids with Autism progress, many will gain new skills and in many areas they may reach or exceed the levels of their typical peers. But Autism will always be part of who they are.
Today, Autistic adults generally identify as Autistic. As a professional, I was always told to use person-first language and call someone a person with Autism not Autistic. However I have found most adults prefer identity-first language and are proud of being Autistic. They argue they would not want to be cured and are offended when researchers talk about a cure.
However, Autism is a spectrum. While there are many adults who do very well, there are some people with Autism who will need support for the rest of their lives, even for everyday things. It is a lot easier to convince a parent that Autism does not need a cure when their child is able to live and work independently than when their child needs around the clock care for their lifetime.
This is the most difficult part of Autism being a spectrum. There is no one thing that is Autism. Autism is a set of neurological differences that is likely caused by many different specific disorders. Research is being done every day and I expect that in the years to come, we will find that different subtypes of Autism are identified.
The good news is that many adults with Autism can be very successful when provided with the proper support. To help you better understand Autism and see the many ways it affects adulthood, I have created the television show Bridge the Gap where I interview adults with Autism.
You can watch the replays here.