From time to time, you read a blog or an article or even a book about how someone ‘cured’ their child’s autism. Is that really possible? Can you ever separate autism from the person? From who that person intrinsically is?
Although I am wary of twitter, I continue to read tweets and posts from autistic adults as I do want to understand more about autism and how it affects people on a personal level. For some in the neurodiverse community, autism is sometimes seen as a gift, an instrinsic part of who that person is, their very personality, so how can that be removed?
I think one of the main grievances from the more able autism community, by able I mean in most cases, more verbal, is that we parents are seeking an outright cure for all types of autism. For those whose children have what we tend to call ‘severe’ autism – minimal or no language, self injurious behaviour, who will need 24/7 care for the rest of their lives, many parents will seek a partial ‘cure’ or a lessening of their child’s autism. Not a removal of their personality but removing that which causes them distress.
We do this out of love.
We parents will do everything we can for our children, to improve their day to day lives. We dedicate our own lives to looking after them and enabling them to reach their full potential.
I personally don’t believe that there is such a thing as a cure but there are certainly ways to help a child develop essential skills to make their lives happier.
I won’t write about the benefits of ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis) in this post. Those who know me and know my boys already know that we did ABA in various forms for 16 years and that it was the one most vital thing we did for our boys.
But I won’t say it was a cure. It was a way of teaching them the same skills that other chidren without autism learn with very little additional help. Communication, learning to talk and to understand other’s speech. Learning to cross a road safely, learning to dress, so many vital life skills.
Some children have physical issues which impact on their autism. If a child is in constant pain, perhaps from a gastointestinal problem such as impacted constipation, that pain will inhibit their learning. When the pain is removed by curing the constipation, their child may experience a lessening of their autism. Those parents may then speak of their child’s autism being cured.
I believe all we can do is to maximise a child’s potential. Not sit back and just accept their autism as defining who they are and who they will be but actively helping them to achieve.
Sometimes, I almost feel bad about writing about how well my boys have done. From non verbal and having a diagnosis of classic autism before the ages of three to happy, talented, semi independent young men. I want to inspire but I don’t want to make any promises that if people do what we did, then their children will progress in the way that ours have.
I know I have done everything I could do to help them on their way but I also know that genetics play a large part in who they are. My younger two sons are more able than my older two. Why is that? They have had exactly the same family environment, same schools, even the same therapists but their autism affects them differently to their older brothers.
It’s not because I learnt more and did it differently, it’s just how it is, for whatever reasons. Possibly physiological, no one really knows and I don’t profess to having the answers either, although I can’t begin to count how often and how many times I have been asked why all my boys have autism.