By Ryan K. Litchfield
Autism is developmental and neurological in nature in which for some individuals it can be hard to accept. However, for other individuals, they are accepting of their autism. Autism helps to establish the expectations of the individual. Autism fosters a sense of purpose and understanding. Autism can be viewed through a larger family unit. Autism can be explained by taking the characteristics and qualities that create the bigger picture. Autism helps to establish individualized strengths and challenges. Autism helps to navigate access to appropriate resources, services, and supports. Autism promotes effective strategies and tools for optimal outcomes in life. Sometimes, autism can help to understand the implications of medication use and side effects. Having autism can help someone to access accommodations at school, work, or in a health care facility. Autism can help reveal cognition of the individual. Autism acceptance differs among individuals. How does one accept their autism?
When we think about autism in the context of expectations, we are talking about what someone with autism can do and how they can achieve optimal success. The expectations of one person with autism will be different from another person with autism. For example, in the context of employment, for one individual with autism, their expectation may be to become a cashier at a grocery or retail store and find optimal success in this way. Another individual may find optimal success by establishing their own business and find self-employment as the successful outcome. One individual with autism may decide to go to trade school to be an electrician versus another individual with autism who decides to get a doctorate in mathematics and become a university lecturer and author of published books. While expectations can promote optimal success to people with autism in a variety of ways, we are being accepting of the types of expectations that individuals on the autism spectrum wish to hold.
Accepting autism also means to establish a form of understanding between ourselves and others. Nobody should ever have to experience feelings of shame or guilt for being true of themselves. Autism establishes a sense of awareness and perspective from the self and of others in terms of the challenges and strengths associated with autism. With the concept of person-first language in mind, individuals with autism are and always will be people first and foremost.
How does accepting autism influence the larger family unit? Families share characteristics that are genetic and/or hereditary in nature, or the phenotypes, in which resemble the core features of the autism spectrum. Family members might have difficulty with social/emotional reciprocity, nonverbal communication, and relationships which influence the quality of the dynamics of families of individuals on the autism spectrum. Autism may help to improve the dynamics of families especially if there are challenges.
Autism allows for the philosophical notion of taking the parts of a whole and forming the whole. In other words, autism allows integrating the perceptions and sensations of the various comorbidities associated with autism like social anxiety, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and ADD/ADHD and the characteristics/criteria of the autism spectrum to reveal the bigger picture of what is known as autism spectrum disorder.
Acceptance of autism allows the opportunity to identify individualized strengths and challenges. Acceptance of autism allows for more effective resources, services, and supports which increase optimal success of the lives of individuals on the autism spectrum. When autism is accepted, individuals on the spectrum and others can collaborate to establish education, mentoring, motivation, and support to promote successful communication and social relationships.
In the context of medications that may be used in cases of comorbidities associated with autism such as generalized anxiety disorder, major depression, and other associated disorders, medical professionals, when given the knowledge and tools to better understand the autism spectrum can be able to distinguish between the bigger picture of autism versus side effects of medications associated with individualized comorbidities so that appropriate treatment methods are utilized by medical personnel.
Accommodations for school, work, and in health facilities to support the needs of individuals on the autism spectrum can promote effective outcomes when autism is accepted. Accommodations can help to support sensory processing, communication, and social relationship challenges.
A final thought, and something that is unique. Having an acceptance for autism presents a unique perspective in a sense that we can understand the reasoning for differences in cognition among individuals on the spectrum. Recognizing that individuals on the autism spectrum have strengths and challenges that vary will also result in varying recommendations for resources, services, and supports. Also, realizing that individuals on the autism spectrum may have differences in cognition may help to prevent false or incorrect diagnoses such as dementia, especially if the individual on the autism spectrum is an older adult.
Summarizing all of this, what does it truly mean to accept autism? I think for individuals on the autism spectrum themselves, for some, they will consider it a gift and a strength, and for others, it may be difficult to accept. Every person will accept autism or not accept autism in their own unique way. For those that care, love, support, and work with individuals on the autism spectrum, they may have similar points of view where they may find it an opportunity for a successful life, and others may find it difficult to comprehend and understand. However, it’s good to get out of the comfort zone to tolerate the unique challenges and strengths of individuals on the autism spectrum, and accept that no matter what, they will and always will be people first. Expectations of how autism is accepted will vary. Forming a sense of understanding in autism to reduce shame and guilt is important. Autism acceptance can improve the quality of family dynamics and structure the roles and norms of family life. Accepting autism means to accept the whole and not just the parts of a whole. Embracing the challenges and strengths of autism is essential. Accepting autism helps to promote motivation to access resources, services, and supports for successful life outcomes. Accepting autism helps to promote tools and techniques to develop and establish effective communication and social relationships. Autism acceptance can help improve the quality and effectiveness of health care in the context of treating medical conditions by medical personnel, especially with medications. With autism acceptance, accommodations can help individuals access equal benefits and opportunities in life like other individuals without disabilities. Autism can help at the end of the day to prevent an incorrect diagnosis, especially later in life. People with autism need and ought to be true to themselves and be treated with dignity and respect in every aspect of what life has to offer.