Autism Spectrum Disorder is now among the most commonly diagnosed developmental disabilities; the U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that it affects as many as one in fifty school-age children. A flood of professionals and programs has emerged to serve these children: physicians, therapists, schools, afterschool programs. There are karate classes and theatre programs for children with autism, sports camps and religious schools and yoga classes. At the same time, charlatans and opportunists with minimal or no experience – and even some with professional credentials – advertise their approaches as “breakthroughs.” Unfortunately autism treatment is a largely unregulated enterprise.
All this has made life even more challenging for parents. Which professional to trust? Who can explain your child? Which treatment will succeed? Which diet? Which therapy? Which medication? Which school? Which tutor?
Like any parents, these mothers and fathers want what’s best for their children. But, struggling with a developmental disability they don’t understand, they don’t know where to turn.
My job for four decades has been to help transform their desperation into hope, to replace anxiety with knowledge, to turn self-doubt into confidence and comfort, and to help them see as possible what they thought was impossible. I have worked with thousands of families touched by autism, helping them to reframe their experience of the condition, and in turn build healthier, fuller lives. That’s what I hope this book will help you to do, whether you are a parent, relative, a friend, or a professional working to support these children and their families.
It starts with shifting the way we understand autism. Again and again I have witnessed the same phenomenon: parents come to perceive their child as so radically different from others that the child’s behaviour seems beyond comprehension. They have come to believe that the tools and instinct they would bring to raising any other child just won’t work with a child who has autism. Influenced by some professionals, they see certain behaviors as “autistic” and undesirable and perceive their goal as eliminating these behaviors and somehow fixing the child.
I have come to believe that this is a flawed understanding – and the wrong approach. Here is my central message: The behaviour of people with autism isn’t random, deviant, or bizarre, as many professionals have called it for decades. These children don’t come from Mars. The things they say aren’t – as many professionals still maintain – meaningless or “non-functional.”
Autism isn’t an illness. It’s a different way of being human. Children with autism aren’t sick; they are progressing through developmental stages as we all do. To help them, we don’t need to change them or fix them. We need to work to understand them, and then change what we do.
Extracted from ‘Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism’ by Dr Barry M. Prizant, published by Souvenir Press, £20.
Find Uniquely Human here: http://bit.ly/2f4PaG9