Today it’s World Autism Day. Being the father of an “Autistic” child, what is it that I would like to add to the conversation? I would like people to understand that “Autism” is a diagnosis given to individuals when a group of behaviors are clustered together and witnessed by a mental health professional. There is much debate on whether there are any actual medical tests that can support an Autism diagnosis. If there are, most medical professionals are not suggesting or prescribing them. If a parent has one of these tests done it is most typically performed of their own volition. We also see the Autism diagnosis continuing to elevate at an alarming rate. So with this said, we need to understand that many children being diagnosed may not actually have what is viewed as classic Autism. They may actually have physiological problems that were brought on by genetic predisposition mingled with environmental factors which present symptoms similar to what is described as classic Autism.
This is the nuance that gets left behind in most of the conversations happening on social media, blogs and many parent face to face discussions. Aside from their behavioral symptoms, the majority of children diagnosed today tend to have very similar health problems. These problems are often referred as Autism Comorbid Disorders. This is what Treating Autism, a charity dedicated to helping individuals with autism reach optimal health and learning, had to say about Comorbid Disorders: “A detailed assessment conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention demonstrated that children with autism had much higher than expected rates of all of the medical conditions studied, including: eczema, allergies, asthma, ear and respiratory infections, gastrointestinal problems, severe headaches, migraines, and seizures (Kohane et al., 2012)“. Unfortunately the traditional medical establishment tends to get stuck on the label, completely ignoring these health challenges. The irony is that many of them, when addressed, are known to alleviate the behaviors that classify the Autism Spectrum Disorder.
So what does this all mean? Well, it means that there is a gap that is not being addressed. It means that parents of children receiving an Autism diagnosis were not given the full picture of what could also be impacting their child. Many parents have determined that their children don’t have “Autism” as we believe Autism to be. Many parents have healed their children of the actual damage they believed was brought upon them. When this healing happens, they find that the original diagnosis they were given no longer applies. On the other hand many families have also tried everything they could to heal their children of these comorbid disorders with very little success. Could the medical establishment have done families a huge disservice by lumping all these children under the same diagnosis? Are there actual Autistic people that were just born that way? Would it be possible that a vast percentage of children on the spectrum are exhibiting Autistic-like behaviors due to these comorbid disorders?
I say “Yes” and many agree. When I say “yes” I’m asking people to expand their understanding of the whole Autism conversation. I ask them to not choose to take offense when someone speaks about Autism recovery or healing. Recovery doesn’t have to mean Autistic children are broken or in need of being fixed. I also ask those that are successfully recovering their children to understand that this nuance is lost on a lot of the general public. I currently believe the medical establishment has created this problem. Perhaps for being overwhelmed, perhaps for other reasons. The fact is that a lot of us, parents, clinicians, physicians, therapists, and even Autistic people are at war with each other. This war is being caused by how labels are given and our process of continuing to use them as the medical establishment has prescribed.
Just remember the cause for a headache is not always the same. It could have been caused by a mini stroke or dehydration, for example. Same symptom, different causes with very different treatments and outcomes. We use the label of Autism because it’s what people know. It’s what we don’t know about Autism that polarizes us. It’s what we don’t know that keeps us from celebrating the successes of so many families. The success of parents whose children have lost their diagnosis or are considered recovered. We tend to be short with each other, and we tend to reject anyone’s experience that is not similar to our own. But in the case of Autism, it’s important to understand that the issue has been framed in too simplistic of a manner. Why are we using one word, Autism, to described so many symptoms and behaviors? It is all in the details, we just rarely allow ourselves to share with each other at that deep of a level.Leo Hart – Leo is a Father of a child with Autism, what he calls a misunderstood diagnosis