Mainstream Media often shares the unique characteristics of Autism and not the Classic Autism most of the children are diagnosed with today. There is a small percentage of population of the articles and videos that you see today in the media. It portrays Autism to the “one off” stories you hear about but not what the majority experience daily. You may see a picture, video or article on a Mathematical wizard or the Physicist, Albert Einstein or the 6 year old who can play Billy Joel’s, Piano Man better than he can or the blind non-verbal 5 year old who found his voice and sings like an angel or Satoshi Tajiri, the creator of Pokémon or the American Professor of Animal Science, Temple Grandin or maybe watching clips from the 1980’s movie Rain Man.
We need to also understand that Autism is not all about the high functioning child who can sometimes be awkward or better yet quirky to be around. Autism can be hard. Autism can be sad. Autism can be confusing. Autism can be messy. Autism can be beautiful. Autism can be fascinating. Autism could be violent. Autism can be isolating. Autism can be lonely.
Saturday night I was asked by a friend who has not spent a lot of time around Cody, “Aren’t most children with autism, smart like genius smart?” I replied, “No, not always. Cody’s processes learning differently. He is very much a visual learner and you usually only have to show him once. His sequencing and matching is off the charts and he can point out over 100 animal’s with receptive labeling even though he can’t say them. He has to actually learn things that typically would come natural to others. He loves to jump in the trampoline but the last several weeks he has forgotten how fun it is because we have been working on other programs with him. So, I am in the process of reminding him how much he loves to jump. Through this learning process comes tears and frustration. Overall, his brain just works different.”
People who do not know or live with someone with autism can create a false sense of what autism is really like. People may even ask, what is Cody’s special talent? They may see a unique story on social media and assume that must be Cody. They may watch a video of a child with Autism experiencing sensory overload or seeking sensory input through their eyes and think, that must be what Cody is experiencing every day. You see, when you meet one child with autism, you have only met one. The Autism spectrum is HUGE and the characteristics that fall under the spectrum vary from child to child. Cody falls under Classic Autism near the pot of gold on the diagram below. Don’t get me wrong some of the information is accurate but if you really want to understand Autism, ask questions about the individual you want to understand more about.
We hosted a party and had an amazing weekend with some of my closest friends who got to be around Cody for an entire afternoon. Allow those times so they can really get to know and understand autism. Let them watch and experience the beautiful, confusing, hard, fascinating, frustrating world that Cody lives every single day. You can also read and understand some of the characteristics that fall under Classic Autism that can be helpful to better understand autism.