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What

is

autism?

Why does it sound so negative?

 

Autism has mostly been studied and described by the medical profession who look at conditions as ‘diseases’.   They look at traits that are different to ‘normal’ as deficits and their language focuses on words like disability, impairment, difficulty, disorder or problem.

It is important to have specific definitions and terms for doctors to diagnose and researchers to study to better understand differences.  However, when this language finds its way into the descriptions on almost all websites (including parent and education), it can become the lens through which we look at autism.

Here’s an interview with Barry Prizant, author of a book called Uniquely Human and co-author of many articles and resources. 

Attitude is everything

Nearly every resource or book about autism starts with this topic.   As you start to read, it is easy to see autism in a negative light.  

 

If you type this question into Google, you will get 7.7 million results and 95% of them use words like difficulty, problems, impairments, disorder, disability or condition.  Here are some examples:

  • …. a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by great difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts

  • …. a pervasive neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impairments in social communication and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities

Autism describes the characteristics of a group of people who share, in several specific ways, some of the many different attributes that make us all human. 

 

Just like diversity in areas such as race, gender, age, physical attributes, attitudes and beliefs: the more we know, the better we can understand, accept and appreciate. 

Being autistic does have implications for individuals and families, but continuing to view it as a deficit makes it harder to accept, understand and support your extraordinary human. 

There is strong evidence that positive parental and teacher attitude has a bearing on both your own experience and also outcomes for individuals.   However, maintaining positive attitudes can be a challenge when access to services is often dependent on portraying your tamariki on their worst possible day. 

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