The medicalised understanding of Autism as a disability has become so ingrained within our society that access to support systems designed to assist those with Autism now hinges almost entirely on a medical confirmation/diagnosis before any assistance can be given. For many children and their families, remaining undiagnosed equates to being shut out of the valuable resources they require.
Already the current lack of clarity and professional understandings as to what Autism actually is, and the physical symptoms and sensitivities involved, as well as the broad ranging disparities experienced both between levels of intellectual ability and functionality, can be seen to be creating the splintered and inconsistent access to support services that those with Autism and their families report experiencing.
We know, for instance, that misdiagnosing a child drastically reduces their capacity to access early intervention. What we haven’t known until now is that the flow of misdiagnosis has been so wide-spread.
The emergence in recent years of newly diagnosed adults illustrates the folly of placing too much weight on professional medical definitions and understandings of Autism.
The rise in the number of adults being diagnosed with Autism also begins to illustrate the vast social and personal issues yet to be addressed within the areas of defining, diagnosing and adequately supporting those with Autism within our communities.
The gender disparity issue within the diagnostic rates between males and females with Autism now stands as yet another example of how falsely constructed and uninformed professional definitions of Autism have failed so many within our society.
The artificially constructed absence of women within the Autism arena is only now beginning to be addressed. As such the past failures of the current system of diagnosis should not be going unheeded.
The continued ramifications of relying on a poorly framed definition of Autism, along with the lack of acknowledgement of the string of co-occurring physiological conditions it can entail, is having a devastating effect on all concerned.
When I look at my son’s behaviors it is hard to deny that he has Autism. Yet those who do not know him assume that because he looks ‘normal’ physically he must also be ‘normal’ in all other ways.
Strangers sometimes think he is playing with them when he speaks to them. As a result they very rarely take him seriously when he tries to address them. When I explain that he has Autism people still fail to take this in, as by conventional social understandings of Autism, my son’s attempts at polite sociability often fail their “in your face” autism rating scale.
The implications of such reactions for my son are huge as they equate to a social denial and misrepresentation of his personhood.
His Dyspraxia (difficulty with physical co-ordination and speaking clearly) I view as an element of his Autism.
Yet his Autism is not viewed as an element of his Dyspraxia.
Currently Autism is medically considered a neurological condition of “unknown origins”. While Dyspraxia is understood as a purely physical condition caused by a neurological dysfunction .
I find this play on words hard to understand when the two conditions occur in tandem and together shape my son’s way of being.
I also find it hard to understand why his sensitivities to food textures are currently medically considered to be due to his Autism (no known origin) yet his sensitivities to the ingredients in some foods are considered to be a physiological issue (of known origin).
To me these things are one in the same. They are merely being understood in different and exclusionary ways.
I do not understand why either condition is being understood and defined as having a different method or pathway of biological interaction by the medical community?
The refusal of those within the medical community to view Autism and it’s co-occurring physical conditions as a whole, routinely downplays the intensity of the sensory issues that Autists experience while at the same time creating the very measures that continue to deny the reality that Autism encompasses both physical and neurological sensory experiences.
Sensory issues are not psychological. They are physical. The misrepresentation of Autists as always being emotionally shut off, anti-social and incapable of pleasant interactions may be a broader reflection of the misunderstanding of the impacts of sensory issues on Autists.
So yes I think it matters greatly how Autism is being defined.