When contemplating what to buy for others during your holiday shopping, think about how your words can be gifts to others every day. We often fail to acknowledge how much the little stuff counts, and when I say little stuff, I’m referring to those brief, thoughtful interactions one can have with another human being that may mean so little for you to think about giving, but yet can mean the world to the receiver.
Throughout my experiences working with children with Autism and Developmental Delays, it has made me feel selfish on so many levels. My counseling experiences have made every problem I have ever endured appear so miniscule and insignificant in comparison to others. Starting my career in psychology has changed my life, fore it has shown me how superficial some of our life misfortunes can be in the large scale of things.
Autism is now being diagnosed with 1 out of 125 children, with a ratio of 4 to 1 for males versus females. The question remains as of what is causing such rates in prevalency? In psychology there have been known fads in diagnoses; in the 80’s Bi-polar was the fad, and the 90’s are characterized by the hot diagnosis of ADHD. Autism is now a diagnosis that is currently popular in psychology; that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is being misdiagnosed, but the fact that therapists are further educated on symptoms increases the likelihood for the disorder’s symptoms to be identified and utilized in treatment goals.
Much of my last year of graduate school was occupied by the study of this fascinating disorder. The rare symptomology of repetitive behaviors, odd fixations, and lack of social awareness or withdrawal make this disorder unique to all others. Some of my most intriguing, interesting clients have been of this disorder, despite the challenges their lack of verbalization presents in therapy. It is heart wrenching to see someone how feels emotions and processes feelings as we do, but cannot verbalize the thoughts their mind desires to express.
Anyone in our society can help these individuals, not just professionals in this field. Individuals with Autism exist in a large spectrum of severity, ranging from completely non-verbal to verbal. When in public places individuals with Autism are often triggered by sensory issues due to the lack crowds, loud noises, and unfamiliar environments. When encountering someone of this disorder, please do not talk to them as if they cannot understand you, or as if they are dangerous. The disorder was often confused with Mental Retardation before extensive evidence was provided to prove disorder’s existence. Individuals with Autism are typically in average to high cognitive functioning, so they can understand what you are communicating. Just because they may not be able to appropriately verbalize what they are feeling doesn’t mean they aren’t paying attention or comprehending what you are communicating. As much as you can normally engage them as you would other children, the less stigmatizing their diagnosis will be.
You can make a difference in children’s’ lives by seeking further psycho-education on the disorder and gaining better understanding of symptoms. Being aware of the different symptoms and how to communicate effectively will aid you in having more positive interactions as individuals with Autism continue to be integrated into our society. For now, just remember how little acts of kindness and respect go a far way.