Autism Awareness week/2020
So once again. Amongst everything going on this month; Coronavirus, lockdown, um….more coronavirus……Oh, and Easter! It is also apparently autism awareness month. No, I didn’t know either, until I saw some awareness post. We should always try and become increasingly aware of what is going on around us. Though a day, week or month does give us a good platform to voice our opinions, and it is a good reason to celebrate.
So lets begin. There is so much bloody stigma surrounding autism, so much of it! If many of us were to create an image of someone autistic in our minds, it would most likely be of a young boy, reorganising something like cards, likely to be excellent at maths, and probably slightly reluctant to behave. And yeah. this assumption might be partially true. but it is such a narrow assumption of what autism it, and how it silently effects so many people on a day to day basis.
A minute ago, I typed “autistic child” into the google images bar, and being female, I could not help but to notice how in the two columns ALL, and I mean all were young boys! Like does this not effect girls either. So if I take a glimpse of figures, comparing the proportion of male and female diagnosis, you can see how this condition heavily seems to effect males more. Yet this might not aactually be the full picture. According to an article from the guardian entitled “Thousands of autistic girls and women ‘going undiagnosed’ due to gender bias” from September 2018, suggests that current statistics show that there is roughly a 10:1 ratio of autism diagnosis, between males and females, while the reality may be that it is closer to 3:1. As Prof Francesca Happé, director of the Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre at King’s College London, was interviewed back then she stated that girls and women are going undiagnosed due to it being viewed as a “male condition”, additionally quoting “we have overlooked autism in women and girls” describing it as a real “gender inequality issue”. Apart from the current medical reckoning of this, being underestimating the number of girls with this, I personally feel this inevitably increases stigma amongst girls, about this condition being a “male thing”, and of girls fearing they may have this, but feeling afraid to open up and seek help, in fear of becoming alienated. Or those of who are already diagnosed, facing difficulties fessing up to this themselves, and being unable to be more self accepting due to the assumption that it isn’t really a female thing…
Which leads on to yet more stigma. I feel many people with autism are genuinely ashamed of the condition, due vastly to narrow assumptions many of us, and websites make about this. Even websites like “exploring your mind” can appear to contain stigma, most likely unintentional. Referring to a “3 year old boy who doesn’t know how to play with others” or a “10 year old girl who speaks in monotone and doesn’t know how to express her emotions”. On top of implying that those with autism have limited interests. I am aware that this can be the case, but we simply cannot steryotype people with autism in this way. Furthermore describing autism as a “disorder” makes me and many others angry. It is a condition, but the varying means of behaviour and communication help by these people shouldn’t be described as “disordered”. If it weren’t for incredible scientists and mathematicians like Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton, we wouldn’t to be aware of reasonings that we take for granted, like the principle of gravity, motion and the telescope . And although not everyone with this condition may be gifted in that respect, this should really provoke us to realise that actually there is nothing wrong with having this condition. Therefore those with this condition should not feel this should undervalue their worth. And it isn’t only scientists and mathematicians. Many musicians, celebrities and artists have been diagnosed with this condition. Therefore why is there still the notion that if you have it, there is immediately something wrong?
In addition who has heard of this “charity” called “autism speaks”. Under four years ago one of their “missions” was to find aa cure for autism. Like having it is a bad thing. Like they were wanting to “achieve” removal of this aspect of diversity, rather than to simply educate people, and make life easier for those with the condition. Personally I find this shocking…
Furthermore their name “autism speaks” doesn’t help. To me it implies that they are trying to promote more awareness and education about the condition, and make people realise what it is not. Plus give better representation to those who have it. Not try and remove it, like it is an always negative… Now I find it even crazier that there are people out here, still, who strongly fear letting their children have various vaccines, protecting them from measles and various other illnesses, some with much higher severity, because it may give them autism. For a start there is no proven correlation to this. Though I know that when a vaccine first comes out, it tends to spark fear amongst certain groups of people, concerned that it may lead to worse health complications, than what the vaccine protects against. I know that often apparent correlations appear between children having a vaccine, and them becoming seriously ill. However when it comes to autism, even if there is a link, which I HIGHLY doubt, it upsets me to think that parents would rather risk the chance of their child becoming seriously poorley, than increasing the chance that they may have autism. This just illustrates the amount of unnecessary stigma and the fear surrounding this.
Therefore I feel as people we need to reduce our own presumptions and fears surrounding autism, and become more accepting towards those who may have it. We need to become more aware of what it really means rather than what stereotypical images we may have seen, or just have in our heads. I think it is very unfortunate that those who suffer with this, feel obliged to conceal this the best they can feeling like a burden to others. As opposed to celebrate and their differences.