World Autism Awareness Day – Let’s allow disabilities to change our societies for the better.

World Autism Awareness Day – Let’s allow disabilities to change our societies for the better.

April 2 is observed as World Autism Awareness Day. The day is meant to raise awareness about autism, a developmental disorder which impairs your ability to communicate and interact. Autism can be defined as a complex neurobehavioural condition which causes problems with language and communication skills. It also causes a person to have repetitive and rigid behaviour. Autism is characterised by a range of symptoms and is thus also known as autism spectrum disorder. On the occasion of World Autism Awareness Day 2019, the effort is to spread widespread awareness about autism, and try to break social, environmental and psychological barriers that come in way of autistic people.

It is important to know that symptoms of autism appear during first 3 years of life. While some children show signs of autism since birth itself, others slip into the symptoms suddenly when they are 18 to 36 months old. According to WebMD, autism is more common in boys than girls.

It has to be known that autism is one syndrome which falls under autism spectrum disorders. Following are the disorders which are classified under umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder:

1. Autistic disorder: This is autism which is characterised by problems with communication and social interactions.

2. Childhood disintegrative disorder: This kind of autism affects children, where they develop normally for at least 2 years. They then lose most of their communication and social skills. Childhood disintegrative disorder is quite rare.

3. Asperger’s syndrome: Children with asperger’s syndrome experience same social problems as autistic disorder. They have limited scope of interests but they don’t face any problems with language. They score as much as average or above average students as well.

4. Pervasive developmental disorder: This is also similar to typical autism. This disorder is for children who experience some autistic behaviours but they don’t fit into any of the above categories of autism spectrum disorder.

By now, it seems, almost everyone knows a child with autism, has a relative with autism or has seen someone on television like Big Bang Theory who they think have autism.

But many are still confused about autism even though this term became widely used in the 1940s.

Some wonder if vaccines cause it. Can parents make it happen? No and no! Others question whether we as a society can fix autism. But do we want to? Should we want to?

The medical model, focused on individual treatment and outcomes, tends to see disability as a single person’s problem —as an individual impairment.

I don’t think it’s an over-generalization to say that most people see autism this way, as well as disability in general.

In language about disability, a vocabulary has evolved that often suggests something is missing: think attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. I must admit we often teach about disability in a similar way: as something in someone that is lacking.

Yet often when people first begin living with disability, disability is foremost a change — a change in lifestyle and a change in expectations.

The truth, perhaps shocking to contemplate, is that disability can happen at any time, to anyone. The way you are now, or the way I am now, is a precarious and ever-changing reality.

When we make disability the “other,” seeing those who have it as “the other people” —those who are not like us, those who are not “good enough” —we need to remember that there is no immunity against disability.

This journey of life that is full of unexpected twists and turns can result in disability for you or those you love.

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