The Autism Spectrum
It’s more than just a learning disorder…
For years, 28-year-old Samantha*, a successful manager at an international corporation, led a secret life of Autism.
Growing up, Samantha was a quiet individual who did not have many friends. She also had difficulties in catching up with the syllabus taught in school and achieving good grades was a far-fetched dream. “I would be happy if I had a pass in my exams when I was in primary school,” Samantha recalled.
It was only about when she was eight years of age that her parents were starting to get worried about her performance in school and hence, they sought advice from a medical professional.
Samantha was diagnosed with high-functioning autism and since she has passed the tender age for early childhood intervention (up to three years of age), her doctor did warn them that intervention is still possible. However, the results may not be as promising.
Despite that, Samantha’s parents went against all odds to provide the help she needed from experts in the medical and education field.
Today, Samantha is a mother and a successful manager, who also passed her secondary school and university exams with flying colours.
Samantha kept her secret of living with autism for years until about two years ago, she decided to share her story with some of her closest friends. Her parents were afraid that she would be judged unfairly and she grew up to think the same.
Though, the way her friends reacted opened her eyes. “I did not plan on telling them honestly but I went with the flow during a conversation. I was afraid at first but I knew I could trust them at the same time. Initially, they were surprised when I told them and they never taught that I’m autistic,” she said. “They were so positive and they did ask questions to understand the situation better and I was willing to answer all of them.”
Samantha is blessed to have understanding friends who accept her for who she is and truly, that made her feel comfortable to be herself.
AWARENESS IS KEY
Just like Samantha’s friends, we too have a choice to define who we are and who we can be. The definition of a ‘perfect’ individual does not exist, as everyone is unique in his or her own way.
As for autistic individuals, let’s accept them into your community with an open heart because they too, are individuals.
A lot of understanding is needed to know and accept autistic individuals. It is not only about being friendly to a stranger who may be autistic but it’s also about accepting autistic individuals as a friend, colleague and family member. This also means, it’s important to understand not to stare or be judgmental to them or their loved ones.
TO SHED THE LIGHT ON AUTISM, HERE ARE 18 FACTS ABOUT THIS LEARNING AND BEHAVIOURIAL DISORDER THAT YOU SHOULD TAKE NOTE OF:
- Autism is not one type of disorder, it is an umbrella of developmental disorders that impairs one’s cognitive, social and communication functions.
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is divided into Autistic disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, Rett’s disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS).
- About 1 in 68 newborns have autism.
- It has been scientifically proven and confirmed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that there is no link between vaccines and autism.
- An autistic child is not the result of irresponsible parenting or a ‘curse’ to a family. It is a medical condition that can affect any child regardless of your health, lifestyle, race and socioeconomic background.
- The word ‘autism’ comes from the Greek word ‘autos’ that means ‘self’.
- Autism is four times more prevalent in boys than girls.
- Annually, about 9,000 children are to be born with autism in Malaysia.
- The three main symptoms of autism are social communication challenges and restrictive and repetitive behaviour that begin in early childhood, are persistent and interfere with your child’s daily life.
- Sensory issues often accompany autism. They can be both hypersensitive and/or hyposensitive to sights, sounds, touch, taste and even balance and they could find it uncomfortable.
- ASD is not a degenerative condition that gradually deteriorates one’s ability to function, unlike an untreated disease.
- There is no cure for autism but medical experts agree that early childhood intervention can benefit all children with autism.
- Nearly two thirds of children with autism between the ages of six to 15 have been bullied.
- Just a smile can make the world a better place for an autistic individual and his or her caregiver.
- Interacting with a pet can benefit a person with autism when it comes to social development.
- A 2018 study on parenting stress and resilience in Southeast Asian parents of children with ASD found that social support, financial difficulties and worries about their child’s future are some of the main stress factors.
- There are both public and private schools in Malaysia that accept children with special needs including autistic children.
- An experienced medical expert can diagnose autism as early as age two.
*Name changed to protect privacy