Day 128 (of 187) on #worldAutismAwarenessDay
(Sigh – original blog seems to have disappeared…updating with a second attempt….)
I am not usually a fan of “special event days” for things that are part of our daily lives. I will always take a moment and remember on November 11th. I will run (walk) for Terry Fox. There are some days that are important for remembering. Things we live with…are daily events – but at the same time, there is a lot of misunderstanding and mis-worrying about students with complex brains that fit under the heading of Autism.
Though the terminology has changed. Instead of being on the Autism Spectrum, it has shifted to simply “on the spectrum” – and that is because there is quite a range for those with complex brains. I have worked with students who struggle with verbal language, others who can’t always control their bodies, many that are simply brilliant in the way they think. But the complex brain sometimes makes things look like the person is struggling with behaviours, when it is organic. Nobody wants to struggle with communication, but reading body and facial cues is not always easy…. which faces are angry? happy?
(photo courtesy of Practical Psychology )
Sigh…sometimes its not easy for anybody…. And while we have television shows showing what life can be like via shows such as The Good Doctor, more important is how it shows typical reactions to people with autistic tendencies – because there is no one-descriptor-fits-all. Though for the most part, while the communication competency can be a challenge, intelligence is usually quite high – because the brain is busy – much like when its connected to its (too close) relatives of anxiety and depression (these affect roughly 1/3 of all autistic brains), the brain doesn’t stop. The brain goes (way) too fast. To help, my son helped create an image to show how many images his brain goes through for every. single. question. And how do you sort a thousand possible responses to the “right one” that a teacher/parent/friend/other wants to hear?
- It is true that since first identified in 19442, the frequency of diagnosis has moved from approximately 1 in 1500 to roughly 1 in 60 (2018).
- The spectrum has broadened over the years (which may be why there are “more cases” being seen in society and schools)
- It is not caused from vaccines
- There is no medical detection
- It can be identified at various ages
- Therapies such as speech and occupational are effective but resources can be challenging to acquire in rural communities
- it is not true that people with autism don’t want friends; they do, they struggle with social skills though
- people with autism do feel emotions even though they sometimes don’t “show” it in the same/normal/traditional way – but not everyone shows the same emotion the same way anyways…
- Autism is not something you “grow out of”
- Autism is not caused by “bad” (cold) parenting
- Autism is not “being odd”, though as my son likes to point out:
So on World Autism Day, I was thrilled to see so many people wearing sunglasses, wearing different colours for different connections (most common is blue – http://time.com/5224429/people-are-wearing-blue-today-for-autism-awareness-day/?platform=hootsuite ) but the people who “get it” wore mismatched clothes because sometimes one sock feels better on the left foot and another for the right. Because there is no one right way to celebrate and acknowledge the complex brain that fits under the term Autistic.
The spectrum is wide, but strategies we use in schools to “help” them, so often help others as well, which can include:
- predictable routines (or providing visual calendars which can show changes)
- project based learning so students can show learning in personalized ways
- geniushour/passion projects so students can explore obsessions
- spaces that are quiet – spaces that are louder (music)
- opportunities to use technology
- build classrooms with the class (pinterest classrooms are beautiful, but so often can be hard to process) – bright colours can be distracting
and as my son found and thought is good to share, its not about “being fixed”:
More information: https://autismcanada.org