Autism is a complex disorder. If I was to look at a “normal’s” IQ test result then this would be a reasonably straight line, a few ups and downs but overall; regular. This is not so for someone with one of the Autism Spectrum of Disorders, our IQs read akin to roller coaster; troughs and quite often substantial highs.
An Autism Spectum Disorder (ASD) person, can be perceived as being exceptionally clever and/or talented, however on occasions quite dense. Ok, so I know that you’re going to believe me on that one. 😉
Therefore the fact is, do not take it for granted that we are intelligent in all matters.
People with ASD have problems with social and communication skills, the most notable of these is taking statements literally. The invention of smileys is a god send to ASD people, because then you know when the person is smiling when they make the statement, or is it serious? This is not clear to people such as myself with ASD. I’m certain that everyone has been through this: But I didn’t know that it was a joke. People with ASD have to deal with this on a daily basis, having to interpret whether the person is serious or just joking. Then throw sarcasm in for good measure. With sarcasm, an ASD person is well and truly stuffed, because the statement contradicts the person’s intention.
An example of taking things literally comes from a young lad, age 14yrs. This boy had previously been diagnosed as being “a behaviour problem” and from this example, you will see why.
P* to his High School Geography teacher: How do I write an essay?
Geography teacher: You would write it as you would talk to me.
P* replied: But I wouldn’t talk to you.
Although the cause of ASD is unknown, it is a reasonable assumption that this is a genetic disorder, albeit the exact cause of it has not yet been found. Within one family you may find one person with a milder manifestation such as Asperger’s Disorder, someone who is verging on Savant, and yet another person in the dark realms of the severely autistic.
Many people with ASD have unusual ways of learning, of paying attention and of reacting to sensations. Within this imaginary set of blood related people you might have someone who cannot speak on the phone, someone with a series of phobias and hypersensitivity, and someone with a special talent, usually mathematical or musical. An example of hypersensitivity might be an ability to hear a conversation across the street, and this might coexist with an ability to sort data in one’s brain, due to the ability to visualise the pattern. A negative trait might be not being able to have certain fabrics touch the skin. We all have phobias, but ASD people are often endowed with a number of these, and all relate to a hypersensitivity.
An Asperger’s person is likely to be fascinated with technology as technology reacts in a logical sequence, cause and effect.
The first Autistic person to challenge perceptions of what it means to have ASD is a lady by the name of Temple Grandin. This lady was, as a child recommended for a special school but due to her mother’s perseverance, Temple Grandin learned to speak and then later discovered a special talent: she could visualise how cattle perceive things. Yes a very unusual talent isn’t it, but Ms. Grandin went onto a highly successful career in the US cattle industry. A movie has been made of her life story which I don’t think is in the video shops, but it can be downloaded. I would highly recommend this for anyone interested in true life stories.
“What would happen if the autism gene was eliminated from the gene pool?
You would have a bunch of people standing around in a cave, chatting and socializing and not getting anything done.” ― Temple Grandin, “The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism & Asperger’s”
Asperger’s especially are characterised by all encompassing, all pervasive interests and can become fixated on things. When these interests have a practical application generally there isn’t a problem, but these can become a problem when these interests take the place of normal human interaction. For example, an all pervasive interest in Egyptology can become a career, but an all pervasive interest in watching Three Stooges movies does become a problem. A young lad who I was assisting when a Disability Advocate had a fixation on tomatoes, another much younger boy had a fixation on his mother’s elbows.
Almost all Asperger’s have an unusual gait. I personally tend to “trot” when I walk, and have to concentrate on taking larger steps.
Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that typically lasts throughout a person’s lifetime and today, 1 in 110 individuals are diagnosed with some form of autism from the spectrum. Males are far more likely to be diagnosed with ASD than females, however it is unknown whether this is genetically based, or rather that society expects more conformity from males than from females; that is, it’s a matter of expectations.
From my Invisible Disabilities topic:
Wallace: After everything she told me, and checking on your excellent record in college, I’m wondering why you choose to drive a taxi for a living.
Donald Morton: At my interview with IBM after I graduated college, they asked me what my plans were, and I said, “Probably go to McDonalds for a 12-piece McNugget and two cheeseburgers, and then do my laundry.”
Wallace: Did they laugh, at least? – Mozart and the Whale, Biography & Autobiography by Jerry and Mary Newport (both have Asperger’s and Mary is also an autistic savant)
The Autism Awareness Campaign can be found at: Autism Awareness
Note: the above artwork is Briony’s first ever color drawing.