You and I both know there are more people living with autism spectrum challenges (ASD) than anyone imagined.
In fact, Autism now occurs in 1 in 38 children (Source: CDC). I’d love to see the number for adults. One problem in getting those numbers is how many adults are on the spectrum and don’t know it.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is considered a neurodevelopmental disorder by the medical community and is diagnosed by observable gaps in the ability to:
- Communicate effectively in social situations
- Make and maintain friendships
- Enjoy interests beyond their narrow list of interests
- Regulate their stress levels absent repetitive behaviors (e.g. stimming, counting, lining things up, for example).
I don’t know if sensory-regulation issues have made it into the diagnostic criteria, but it belongs there based on what I’ve observed.
My experience is that people with sensory dysregulation fall into two categories: those who have it and those who don’t know they have it because they believe their experience is ‘normal‘. But knowing what it looks like could help you support someone approaching or experiencing overload.
Awareness of autism and its associated challenges is more important than ever with the rising numbers. If you don’t have someone on the spectrum in your family, chances are you know someone ‘quirky’ who may be on the spectrum.
The more you know….
The more you know, the less confused and anxious you will be when you meet one of us who shows up in an unconventional way.
Knowing why we do what we do can help create a foundation of curiosity, compassion, and inclusion. One that allows both of you to learn more about yourselves as much as about each other.
I’ve experienced the discrimination born of ignorance, as I was called “Weird, stupid, retarded,” not to mention the humiliating physical bullying.
Living with autism often leads to social isolation. Raising awareness while modeling inclusion for each other can help reduce this.
This change in awareness can also help educate others on the importance of support services as a way of helping more of us secure gainful employment to contribute more fully to society.
Do you see the human in me….
In service of accomplishing this grand undertaking, I find it valuable to see people first and foremost as a fellow human being. Someone else doing their best to navigate the human experience.
Autism or not, you understand that finding your place in this world can be full of ups, downs, and painful experiences you need to recover from.
That’s particularly hard to do when your nervous system is designed more for threat-detection than problem-solving.
Each of us has a personal resume of strengths and challenges. In the case of Autism, our skillset is often severely lopsided. I’m in the 3rd percentile in working memory, but in the 99.6th percentile in verbal ability.
My ability to communicate in speaking and writing at such a high level masks my severe deficits in math, reading, time-management, sensory-regulation, and more.
A common blip in our effort to be included….
One reason folks with ASD may refuse to diverge from discussing or participating in our special interest. It feels safe; we feel competent in it (rarely anywhere else).
We want to participate and belong, but we don’t want to be corrected over and over. Sticking with our areas of proficiency helps bolster our feelings of confidence and competence.
I’ve been told I have a unique lens on the world that helps people understand the human experience better. I love discovering new Autism and Neurodiverse advocates around the web because I learn from their unique perspectives as well.
Celebrating the humanity of people in general, and people with Autism in particular, means treating them with respect and dignity. Show them you understand that their challenges don’t define who they are, and their strengths are something you admire about them.
We’re all in this together, right? We need each other to feel safe, to learn, grow, and thrive. What chance do people with autism have if they can’t even get through the door to show what they’re capable of?
Hopefully, we’re headed toward a world that practices greater acceptance, compassion, and inclusion for everyone. It can start right now, with you and me.
Will you join me?