This is the second of a two-part guest post. See here for Part 1.
In part 1 I mentioned that the phrase ‘becoming autistic’ is wrong; this is why: Over the years there have been a number of theories about what causes autism. A common theory in the 1950’s was the ‘Refrigerator Mother’ theory that claimed autism was caused by a lack of ‘warmth’ (bonding, affection etc) from the mother. Complications during birth have been discussed as a cause of autism and also when babies aren’t able to breast feed. In each of these cases my personal opinion is that people had/have the cause and effect the wrong way round. The current research seems to be pointing to genetic factors as the main cause of autism and, possibly, some environmental factors. Children are born with autism – it is not something that develops later in life or as a result of their upbringing.
I also want to clarify that autism is NOT caused by the MMR vaccine – the paper that claimed this has been proved to be fraudulent and has been officially retracted. Here are a few links about that:
The lack of warmth wasn’t the cause of autism; people with autism struggle with emotions and reading facial expressions. Many do not like being touched except at their own discretion. If adults on the spectrum who can talk, type and gesticulate still struggle to explain their emotions and needs to people, then a baby has no chance. Perhaps this is why many parents of autistic children struggle to bond with their (already autistic but not diagnosed) child?
Changes of environment and structure are very difficult for autistic people to handle. If a baby is autistic in the womb then perhaps the change in hormones, their position, the upcoming ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ is enough to cause so much stress that it leads to complications in birth. My son’s birth was very complicated – his heart rate dropped as he was so distressed and he was, thankfully, extracted via an emergency caesarean. The complicated birth didn’t cause his autism, his autism more than likely caused the complicated birth.
The same goes for breast-feeding. To breast feed a baby he/she needs to be up close to the mother – I’ve already mentioned closeness and touch being factors that can cause stress and anxiety to those on the spectrum. So it is likely that an autistic child could struggle with that and not take to breast-feeding.
I guess what I’m saying is that people don’t catch autism, people don’t develop autism, people don’t become autistic – it’s just the way some people are made.
Day To Day Life
I was going to write about what day-to-day life is like with my son; what struggles we face regularly, what things work and what things don’t but I’ve decided not to. Not because it’s not important, and not because I’ve already written a 1500 word essay either! The main reason is that “if you’ve met one autistic person then you’ve met one autistic person.” By that I mean every person with autism is affected in different ways – there’s no use me telling you all about my son in the hope that it will help you deal with other autistic people only for you to go see your friend who’s son had just been diagnosed and then think “well, this is nothing like what MaFt told me…”. Instead, let me challenge you to do some research about the different ways that people are affected by autism – perhaps then you can pick out certain things that friends on the spectrum may do and have a better understanding of their condition.
This week (27th Mar – 2nd Apr) is World Autism Awareness Week and I hope I have raised your awareness at least little bit. Before I go, I’d like to tell you about a game I play – it’s another game that involves the imagination. And it’s not really a game.
I like to imagine that there will be a time when my son (and my nephew, and my friends’ children) can be himself without fear of being bullied at school, or have hurtful comments aimed at him. I like to imagine that there will be a time when I will be able to meet my son’s needs. I like to imagine that in years to come there will be help and support for my son when he moves on from education and looks for work. I like to imagine that he will be able to live independently and without anxiety because there will be home help for him. Perhaps most importantly I like to imagine a time where the world is able to “accept difference, not indifference” and autism is just another thing that people accept and do their best to understand and help.
I have quite a vivid imagination, I know, but I do believe all those things are possible. This is why I want to raise awareness of autism and why the work of charities such as the National Autistic Society are so important.
During world autism awareness week I will be doing a sky dive with my 68-year-old mother to raise funds for this amazing charity that have helped so many people over the years. (We’re even in a local paper!) It would be great if you could spare a few quids to sponsor me: http://netflix.maft.uk/jump.
I’ll leave you with this short video that explains autism and if you have any questions for me then leave them in the comments and I’ll reply as soon as I can! Thanks for reading – I know it’s been quite long…