Autism Is…

I’d assumed that anyone reading this blog already understood autism, but I have been asked to explain autism for those who are not familiar with the condition.

Autism is a puzzling disorder which is why the symbol is a puzzle. It used to be a child’s face in a puzzle, but now it is puzzle pieces. In 1987 and ’88, I hosted a cable TV show titled “My Piece Of The Puzzle.” I don’t know much more about the condition now than I did then.

Autism is a developmental disability. A developmental disability is one that a person is born instead of one resulting from accident or illness. It is a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain. (In the 1970s when PJ was born, the condition was said to be caused by cold, refrigerator mothers). I felt so guilty.

Autism appears during the first three years when a seemingly typical child starts to regress.  Personality and behavior change during this time. Since PJ was so “normal” when he was born, I bought into the idea that I was somehow the cause.  I’m glad that they don’t burden mothers with that  theory anymore.

The condition affects the behavior, (sometimes becoming aggresive,  as PJ did),  social skills and ability to communicate. PJ still can’t talk, but he is independent enough that he doesn’t miss out on anything. He had speech therapy for two years, but did not really want to talk. He has a speech impediment and would have needed to want to talk bad enough to overcome the impediment. I could see after two months that it wasn’t working, but I did not want to give up.  They finally told me that it was a waste of their time and my money to continue. He is not as aggressive anymore and is far more pleasant and agreeable. He is still very unsocial and retreats to my bedroom if anyone comes to visit.

Autism affects all races, all social level and all ethnic groups. It is four times more prevalent in boys than in girls. When PJ was born in 1975, the diagnosis affected 1 in 10,000. Now the diagnosis affects 1 in 150. Why the increase? Another piece of the puzzle that needs to be solved. The fact that it affects more boys than girls hasn’t changed.

It is referred to as ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder, because the condition ranges from low functioning people to extremely intelligent people. For the high functioning people, it is referred to as Aspergers. Some people with Aspergers become adults before they solve their piece of the puzzle about their behavior, lack of social skills or disinterest in popular trends.

Whenever I meet a person with Aspergers, I find them very interesting to talk to. I can question them and get some insight into why PJ has certain behaviors. I talked to a teen ager with Aspergers and asked him if he wanted to drive. He said that he didn’t want to drive because he did most things by ritual and driving was so unpredictable that he would not be able to ritualize it. I was very impressed at his intelligence and insight.

Autism is a disorder that baffles even the experts. I have quit apologizing for PJ’s existence. I gave him birth, but God gave him life, so he is entitled to his little space on the planet just like the rest of us. He, too, is a child of God.

Until next time: May you have Peace, Love and Prosperity in your life.

Claudreen Jackson



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