Autism is so much more than just a diagnosis. The disability is also much more complex than most people can fully comprehend. Each case is so different from the next; no one can fully compare one autism case to another. Women also express the disorder differently than men as well. A republished article from the ‘Age of Autism’ stated that no one really knows what causes autism. This statement just shows how little various professionals truly know about this disorder and the co-morbid disorders that many autistic individuals deal with in daily life. Some people still claim there is an epidemic of diagnoses, especially in regards to the new DVM V diagnostic criteria, while others will calmly explain that it is becoming easier to identify. Although, there is one factor that some professionals often miss and this is how some of the basic symptoms of the disability can mimic a variety of other disorders as well.
Professionals need to be asking themselves, “When is it too early to diagnose autism?” Yes, it is very important to catch things early, but sometimes labeling too soon can be as damaging as a diagnosis later in life. The newly published infant eye gaze study just seems questionable, especially if there are any other major tests lacking evidence of a positive diagnosis. Professionals need to keep in mind the individual variations and other disorders that can easily mimic the base-line symptoms of autism.
Another complex but lesser understood challenge is the co-morbid disorders that are common within the autism population. A variety of anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder, GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder); depression disorders (that may include recurrent major depression); ADD/ADHD symptomatology; tics that can be physical, verbal and repetitive; and a plethora of possible sensory disorders, just to name a few that are common. Putting any of the co-morbid disorders or physical disorders along with the autism disability explains how challenging life can be, and that autism is a lot more than just a diagnosis by itself.
Many people do not realize how high the intelligence level can be in many autistic individuals within a variety of areas. Autism is a social disorder and has nothing to do with intelligence levels if a high functioning autistic individual fails to understand how someone is communicating to them, or even a social situation that becomes challenging. Sadly, some autistic individuals that seem lower functioning are underestimated all too often as well. All that is needed at times is some other way to communicate effectively from within their world into the so-called ‘normal’ world in certain cases.
Other challenges autistic individuals face is not only psychological, but neurological and physical as well. Balance issues along with clumsiness are common. A variety of neurological challenges occur on a case by case basis, and it isn’t too uncommon for certain genetic disorders to be present as well.
There are many inspiring high functioning autistic individuals out there, but people do need to keep in mind that only 1/3 of these individuals on the spectrum are able to hold down a job successfully. If early intervention is used, and if the person is very high functioning, they may be able to succeed with proper support systems in place as well. Most high functioning autistic individuals succeed the most by having the above mentioned available and by being able to harness their passions and obsessions into a well-paying career.
Some famous people with high functioning autism include Temple Grandin, Susan Boyle, Daryl Hannah, Dan Aykroyd, Heather Kuzmich, Alexis Wineman and many others who may or may have not announced their diagnosis. There are also many other suspected historical figures that may have been on the autism spectrum too.
With the proper supports and with a lot of understanding and acceptance, those on the autism spectrum can be very successful in their lives. Many get married and have families. Parenting can be a challenge in some areas, but with proper support high functioning autistic individuals can parent very well. Sometimes a high functioning autistic understands a child’s world better, especially if one of their own children may be on the spectrum as well. A common statement many autistic individuals may say is, ‘What is better to know one, is to be one,’ when it comes down to successfully being able to identify other autistic individuals similar to themselves in most cases. Sometimes the disability can seem like a curse, but it can be a gift in disguise if utilized well in various aspects of life. So autism will always be much more than just a diagnosis.
By Tina Elliott