Recent research shows that 1 out of 55 children are born with Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD for short. Autism is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior. ASD can be first seen at 18 months of age or even younger, though it is most commonly found at the age of 2 through a diagnosis from a medical professional.
The month of April is known for a few things, one of them being Autism Appreciation Month. But not all people within the spectrum are the same, so in order to understand how autism affects various individuals, we interviewed a few people on the spectrum.
The first person that we interviewed was a younger brother, who will remain anonymous, who has a 20 year old brother who was born with autism and epilepsy. We asked them about their experiences growing up with a sibling born with autism, and they stated, “I don’t really know anyone else who’s brother or sibling has autism, so it was difficult to relate to any of my friends when it came to my experiences.” The anonymous speaker also mentioned, “Yeah of course there are hard times. My brother has seizures which is a common symptom of it [autism]. My brother throws tantrums occasionally but luckily not as much anymore. Also there’s a lot of people coming into the house [to check up on him].” When trying to adapt to someone with autism, it can be difficult for not only the person with autism but everyone around them. “Sometimes things get complicated, but things change. When I was little, it would be annoying because my brother wouldn’t go to the movies.” They went on to mention how overtime, the person with autism was able to handle and overcome the challenges of attending movie theaters which is a significant accomplishment. We asked the speaker if he could share some facts about their brother. He said, “They watch Spongebob, Elmo, etc. He also collects DVDs and loves to go to the movies.”
The second interview was from a working mother who will also remain anonymous, and who has a 16 year old son who was diagnosed back in 2006. She first shared that, “Raising an autistic child has totally opened my view on life. First how we take small things for granted. Second how closed minded people are. Last how much love and admiration I have for Nicholas.” When asked how she could describe her son she said, “He has a great sense of humor. He loves music and going for car rides. He enjoys puzzles. He doesn’t care about fitting in or having expensive things. He just enjoys living.” Lastly when asked her thoughts on the representation of the Autistic community in media she expressed, “I really don’t feel the Autistic community is represented well in our world or media. When Nicholas was first diagnosed in 2006, autism was just getting some attention. After that it exploded. You heard a lot about autism. The last few years I don’t really hear anything.”
In our world the media is often described as a “helpful” source to spread information. However, this allows both true and false information to be posted. Unfortunately, in the autstic community false information is sometimes put out there. An example of this false information along with lack of representation is the popular singer Sia who directed a movie titled “Music”. The movie has a lot of issues and false depictions of how a child born with autism acts. In television shows like Community, Atypical, and The Good Doctor, there are depictions of characters who are implied to be on the spectrum, but they are often presented as “extremely high functioning”. While there is a wide spectrum, it’s important to represent numerous types of experiences of people on the autism spectrum.