One in 68 Americans are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. These high numbers bring a lot of attention to the disorder. Autism is a mental disorder that affect a patient’s ability to communicate at the level of their peers. The disorder also affects their ability to read bodily and facial cues. One patient, Iris Gray, explains that having Autism is like being a space traveler on a science-fiction television show. The space explorers are sent to new planets and need to communicate with aliens that look exactly like them and speak the same language. The only thing the travelers can not understand is the aliens body language, and facial expressions.
Autism is diagnosed on a spectrum. Higher functioning individuals have seemingly normal conversational skills, though may at times seem awkward in conversation. While lower functioning patients are unable to develop communication skills in the same way as others in their age group. The only problem with these diagnoses is that they put the disorder in a negative light. Many people suffering with the disorder are perfectly happy with their lives. These people enjoy having a different life view, or in some cases a different world. Gray remarks that Thomas Edison was said to be autistic, he did not start developing speech until the age of three.
Autism is not all bad, and researchers say that symptoms some physicians are trying to stop, such as repetitive play and speech patterns, are actually important for patient’s improvement. One of these symptoms is the patients obsessions. Autistic individuals often develop “affinities” toward certain subjects, items, or media. One family reported that their regressive autistic child’s obsession with Disney films helped him regain the ability to communicate. One day, when the young boy was watching The Little Mermaid, his mother overheard him saying the first word he had said in months, “Juicervose.” The family investigated and found that the boy was saying, “Just her voice,” a lyric from the Disney film he was watching. The family took this as a sign that he was ready to speak again, and Disney movies would be their way to go about it. As he got older, he still continued to mimic the voices of Disney characters to communicate. When he speaks in his own voice he gets confused or will shut down. mimicking the voices gives this young boy background information about the context of the situations he is in that he would not have if his obsession of Disney films had been “treated” instead of supported. The obsessions of autistic individuals may be helpful to their success functioning in everyday life.
Gray argues that all autistic people should not be lumped into one group. Every individual who has autism is very complex in their own ways. There is a lot of negative energy around the thought of being autistic, and the symptoms of autism. These negative attitudes negatively affect those suffering with the disorder, when they should be able to learn to enjoy their differences like the stories of the young boy, and Iris Gray. These individuals “obsessions” are their most rewarding qualities, and are helpful to their participation in the community.
By Joshua Shane