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Autism- Really?
Posted on April 2nd, 2018

‚ÄčAutism.  What does it mean to you?  In the last decade the numbers have escalated from 1 in 300 to 1 in 150 to now 1 in 88.  That can be scary for many but for us in the trenches seeing it firsthand, everyday treating pediatric patients, the numbers are becoming an injustice to the parents and to the children themselves.  The saying goes "If you've seen one child with Autism, you've seen one child with Autism."  It is accurate, therefore, that the diagnosis is referred to as a spectrum.  The unfortunate side effect is that it seems EVERYONE is being placed somewhere on the spectrum regardless if they belong there or not.  When everyone is "special" no one is and all it does is slow the process down.  

My frustration began when I saw a news story of a little boy who clearly had Down Syndrome who the reporter labeled as "autistic."  What?!  He is not autistic!  He has Down Syndrome!  Why was he place on the spectrum?  It made no sense.  Since then, every child who is a little different, is delayed in speech, introverted, or has any other diagnosis like Cerebral Palsy or a traumatic brain injury is having the autism diagnosis tacked on.  Yes, yes, I get it that it is a behavioral diagnosis, but do we really need to give every child the label?  It is a grave injustice to the children who actually have autism!  

In my practice, I've seen a handful of "types", if you will, of truly autistic children.  One group is non-verbal, is on-the-go continually, sleeps very little and avoids eye contact with just about everyone.  They tend to be sensory seeking for firm contact and constant motion.  Another group is highly intelligent, incredibly articulate and intuitive.  They have a masterful command of the English language but have very little ability to see outside of black and white, steadfast rules.  This group tends to fixate on a concept and can't move past it.  A third group appears to be stuck where language is concerned but are otherwise cooperative, affectionate, and interactive.  They start with echolalia then one day have an explosion of speech like a dam breaking free, usually catching up to their peers in language once this happens but may retain some quirky social behaviors. 

Then there is the numerous children who come in with a diagnosis of autism that I ask the parents "what merited the diagnosis?" because in all honesty, in many cases I don't see why the label was given.  Most of these "others" have sensory issues which would more accurately be labeled "sensory processing disorder".  Some simply spend too much time in front of screens and have very little ability to socialize or communicate because of what I call early onset gaming that thwarts attention span, language development and social skills, not to mention makes them clumsy, have poor balance and body awareness because they rarely use any body part except their thumbs.  What I find most baffling is when a parent tells me that their child couldn't get services at school without the diagnosis, that other diagnoses "don't qualify".  What?!  So we are labeling kids who don't have autism as autistic just so they can get the services they need at the school level?  Something is wrong here.  No wonder the numbers are sky rocketing- it's false data.  This is muddying the waters and is truly unfair to everyone involved.  

If the powers that be really want to help the real autism community, not to mention children who should have a different diagnosis to get the help they need, subcategories need to be defined to allow parents, educators and professionals the ability to save time, money and resources and get these kids exactly what they need right away.  What frustrates me is the lack of information per child past the broad spectrum diagnosis so parents often spend a year or more, hundreds to thousands of dollars and countless hours of anguish trying to figure it out on their own until they happen upon the right mix of services for their child.  It is heartbreaking!  The diagnosis drives the path for getting help that is why getting the most accurate and detailed diagnosis from the start is so essential.  

And so I ask,  Autism- Really?  You should, too.  


Posted in not categorized    Tagged with #autism #autistic #, #autism, #autistic, #sensoryprocessingdisorder, #sensoryintegration, #autismspectrum


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