Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism is a developmental disorder of variable severity characterized by difficulty in social interactions and communication, and restricted or repetitive patterns of thought or behavior. Many autistic children are incredibly gifted in terms of intelligence, while others struggle academically and/or socially. Patience with autistic children is a must, whether you are a clinician, parent, family member, teacher or friend.
Patience is key because autistic children are not used to interacting with others at the level that society considers appropriate for age. These children may desire friends and companionships, but do not have the strength, courage or sometimes even interest to initiate conversations; making friends often proves to be a challenging task.
Autistic children may also be socially awkward: they may randomly start talking about a topic that is completely irrelevant to the conversation at hand. For instance, a psychiatrist may be encouraging an autistic patient to make school as fun as possible, and the patient will randomly ask, “Doctor, how tall are you?”
Autistic children may also ask questions in class to which the answers are obvious. For instance, a teacher may take away points from disruptive children, and suddenly an autistic child who was not being disruptive will raise his hand and ask, “Did I lose points too?”
Autistic children are also typically involved in repetitive thoughts or behaviors regarding a topic of their interest. For instance, a child may be fascinated with Pokemon and will only focus on his Pokemon cards, and conversations revolving around this subject. When other children attempt to engage the child in different activities or conversations, he or she may find it difficult to connect, resulting in an awkward experience or even bullying.
Many autistic children recognize that they are different, but are happy just the way they are. And the truth is that they are different and special just the way they are! We should not be mourning autistic children because of their differences. Rather, we need to embrace their differences, respect their ways, maintain patience and guide them if they require it.
We are all special in many different ways. What separates us is not our differences, but our lack of desire to appreciate our differences. That is why as a community, DSM can help eliminate the stigma and hatred surrounding mental disorders, substance abuse and anything else that is causing people to shy away in the background.
Together we can.
Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)