The Strengths of Autism

It has been some time since my last post and I can honestly admit that I felt unmotivated to blog because my book club was a complete failure. The book club was an experiment and it may come back in the future if their seems to be some interest from my readers. In honor of my crappy book club, I finished the voted upon book, The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum by Temple Grandin. This book was good but unless you are really interested in autism this blog post will suffice. Grandin is a high-functioning autistic who has many social and sensory quirks which have limited her in the past. She is now very well adapted at dealing with her specific symptoms and has a successful career. A person labeled with autism by the DSM-5 must meet the following criteria found at this website; essentially a person must have social communication impairments and restricted, repetitive behaviors. These criteria are what doctors use to diagnose an individual with autism or Asperger’s Syndrome  which is essentially very high functioning autism. The problem with these definitions is that almost everyone has some sort of social communication impairment. Does that shy-nerdy kid who likes math have Asperger Syndrome? Or maybe that lady who loves cats who smells funny and can’t look anyone in the eye? Well, they may or may not be on the autistic spectrum and in my opinion it is best they never find out. What the heck Jon! Shouldn’t people know what they have and get help! Slow down for a second and let me tell you a little more about severe autistic individuals. A person with severe autism has difficulty processing stimuli that they receive from the environment. Stimulation can come from sounds, visuals, smells, textures, internal thoughts, and various combinations the later. Now here is the thing, no one autistic person has the same issues when it comes to over stimulation. One person may not be able to read because the contrast of the black and white font is too much for his sight while another person may not be able to be around crowds because of how sound effects their mood. It is all over the place and this is why I don’t think it is good to be labeled under the broad spectrum of “Autism.” The label is inherently limited because everyone has unique symptoms which require individualized treatment. Think of it this way, if we labeled everyone “Unhealthy” would that really help the people with that label to get healthy. No because you could be unhealthy in a thousand different ways. Furthermore, labels usually limit people and make people dwell on strengths rather then weaknesses. For example, if a kid gets diagnosed with Asperger’s he may feel that there is no point trying to work on social skills and it is alright if he doesn’t interact appropriately with other people. Flipping the label example, an autistic individual is not hired by an employer because they have preconceived notions about what it means to be “autistic.” In this day of advanced medicine we need to focus on symptoms and not labels because we have the technology finally to pinpoint issues and truly help people. Treating symptoms will exponentially help people more physically and mentally because the focus won’t be on “a disability” and will instead be “lets’s work on these symptoms and figure out your strengths.” People with autism may have social difficulties and some may be completely unable to function without assistance, but each and every person has strengths. These strengths could be math, art, organizing, problem-solving, or just bringing a smile to someone’s face. In my personal experience, people with disabilities are the most pleasant, caring, and uplifting people I have ever met with much more strengths then supposedly “normal” people.

The Autistic Brain-Part 1 and Vote for Next Month’s Book

In this month’s book club, we are reading The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum by Temple Grandin. I apologize for not specifying what page to read to, but in the future just divide the book by four and that will tell you approximately how many pages in a week. I am up to page 50 and the discussion question will concern what was discussed by Grandin in the first quarter of the book. So far I like the book but it is a little too scientific for my taste. Grandin talked a lot about her shortcomings in respects to her working memory and anxiety. She is fairly high functioning and obviously very intelligent.

The discussion question for this week is whether you think autism is over diagnosed in today’s society and the label of “Autistic” helps or hurts an individual?

Please post in the comment section. Remember if you comment each week I will put you in a drawing for a 25 dollar Amazon Gift Card. Don’t forget to vote below for next month’s book.