Rising Up: Autism and Awareness

Is autism or autism awareness on the rise?
Let’s talk and get right into it as there are a ton of factors to consider when discussing the two subjects rising up.

On one hand, any disease has the potential to undergo a similar process of awareness. Take cancer for example. It is possible cancer could have existed in humans for centuries. Yet, it’s easier for doctors to diagnose cancer, whether an increase in cancer has happened or not.

There’s another factor of a rise in mainstream and alternate media exposure centered on autism. To spot autism, we must be aware of the thoughts and actions of an individual. We can’t limit it to common differences either. Autism and Aspergers is a wide spectrum. Different cause and effects happen with different individuals on the spectrum. We can only diagnose by similarities, not absolutes. Parents may spot neurological differences but may sort through mountains of internet data. Sometimes, parents may take in facts about autism from a fake news source or a doctor who misdiagnosed. Because we have tons of online resources, and lack of resources offline (especially in mid-Western states and Canadian provinces), autistic kids are still classified as the “difficult / weird” kids. This can lead to trauma and abusive conditioning that can’t be undone. The awareness is there, but the compassionate empathetic experts on it who walk beside the neediest of autistic children and adults need to rise up. And unfortunately, I’m only one fighter of Aspergers who can speak for himself through this blog.

Then there’s a historical factor, the not-so-notable discovery of Asperger’s Syndrome. Before Aspergers became an official medical condition in the mid 90s, it wasn’t a big deal. The condition is on the high-functioning end of the spectrum and wasn’t considered severe at all. Autism was a condition deemed low functioning where individuals need a care-giver. Most people with Aspergers aren’t on either end of the spectrum and can live independent lives. What doesn’t make Aspergers an issue in itself is that Aspies excelled in a talent or field of study yet they are considered inept when socializing with other people. Aspies are eccentric, shy, or odd rather than autistic as they were not seen as low functioning individuals who need help from a caregiver.

There’s also the clear “moment” in time when autism became the diagnosis to look for. Only the low-functioning were deemed autistic around that “moment” due to lack of awareness. Later, doctors began to recognize that many kids had many neurological differences, but not all. As a result, the individuals are placed on the spectrum. Before awareness really took off, other doctors started diagnosing kids only because they are introverts. Because of all this, it may not even be a jump in the number of Autism cases. It’s a jump in the number of cases reported.

Many factors are to blame. From entertainment, the false garbage from Andrew Wakefield, depression, suicide, the rise of PTSD, and even crime-based media, people have classified all these as causes for autism or the rise of its awareness.

My personal theory is different. It’s the bravery that comes with expressing oneself behind a computer screen. It’s the advancement in social media, and new forums popping up all over the place. The advancing of technology is starting to connect everyone online. We didn’t have to add people anymore on MSN or IRC. We can connect on various forums or through game chat rooms. These places are filled with diverse individuals with common interests or hobbies. The cool thing about Facebook is that there are many kinds of people in a friends list that come from different walks of life. Some of them aren’t familiar with how online message boards and forums work. However, many social media users find that all users can share something that everyone has in common. One of my Facebook friends recently shared about something about autism on his feed. As a result, many of his friends came out of the woodwork. They started opening up about their own neurological struggles. This then resulted in a get-together where we shared our struggles in a focus group. Take away that technology and we’re all keeping to ourselves again.

Because of this group, a few of us with autism and Aspergers who can talk may have become more brave at expressing ourselves and being more social. I hope that change itself will cause others with autism to reach out to more of the neurologically accepted by society. As a result, autism and Aspergers, or the spectrum, can be more than normal or acceptable. It will be a language we can all relate to and speak fluently without autism or Aspergers becoming a flaw, weakness, or an issue.