I have always been interested in autism – fascinated really on their
perspective and experience of the world and how it may differ to mine.
However as I research a little deeper into this subject I find that there is a myriad of answers to the question – how do you know if a child has autism?
When I first started to look into autism and whether we could teach children with autism meditation, I was amazed to notice the associated behaviours and traits of autism were being displayed by people around me (who weren’t diagnosed as autistic). My husband worked in an office with many guys who were computer ‘geeks’ and I could identify many traits in them that might be seen as autistic (including my husband).
I noticed within myself, certain attitudes/behaviours that might fall into the category. If you pick up a copy of a book called ‘Autism and Asperger Syndrome’ (The Facts) by Simon Baren-Cohen you will notice that you may have at least one of the behaviours!
Spectrum of Energy
In my book ‘Calm Kids’ I do touch on my experiences so far of working with autism (asperger syndrome) and how this spectrum is something I see as a spectrum of energy that not only these kids are on, but is something we are all on. In other words we are in the same world, breathing the same air but we are just having our own unique experience of it.
But we are quick to label children and diagnose them (and I can see the advantages of this as it can open up support and funding for parents and families if they have this diagnosis). However it feels that once the diagnosis is in place we limit them through this label. We immediately believe that autism is a negative and there is much research to find a ‘cure’. But what if it was okay to have autism? What if we simply found a way to adapt the environment to some of the needs children with autism have.
Changing the Environment
My friend worked for a disability charity and once said to me that it is only the environment that limits our abilities. I didn’t quite understand so she explained. She wears glasses/contact lenses. If she didn’t have these, she couldn’t see/focus. Her glasses are the change in her environment and have enabled her to do things, ordinary things with her life. If she didn’t have them, she would be disabled. This was a light bulb moment for me.
Today I read an article which is about computers and cameras becoming part of the diagnosis of autism in young children. If a child is diagnosed with autism in the early stages, could it be they will be labeled for the rest of their life and seen to be limited by their environment. Yet what if these behaviours only turn out to be mild (referring to my husband, me and his work colleagues)? How different would our lives have been if we had been labelled?
I feel it isn’t just about the diagnosis and the funding support. It is about being aware of what unique traits each child has and how we can then adapt their environment to help them be the most they can be in their life. Everyone has something to contribute to the world, whoever they are and whatever condition their mind, body and spirit are in.
Whilst I’m still at the early stages of my research (as I hope to write a second book ‘Meditation for Autism’) I hope to show that it isn’t about having a cure for autism but an awareness of what children with autism contribute to us, you and me and our views of the world.