April is known everywhere to be autism awareness month, in which many activities and conferences are held to objectively deploy consciousness and apprehend orientation. However, as we act dynamically this month, we should do the same every day.
First of all, what does “autism” mean?
Autism was a concept unheard of few years ago. It’s a new term covering in its letters excessive isolationism. In detail, as mentioned in Oxford Dictionaries, autism is “a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by great difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts”. Thus, the autist lives in his own world and interacts with himself without merging or mingling with other children around. This concept has evolved later on to be linked to many kinetic and verbal problems.
In fact, many scientists diagnosed autism as developmental disabilities throughout life, affecting language skills and direct communication on the one side, and limiting the ability of the child to build friendships, express feelings and acquire basic learning skills due to severe disorders in cognitive functions, especially in temporal and spatial definitions on the other side.
Theoretically, autism is the manifestation of a disability or an imbalance in social integration, accompanied with a significant delay in language development that affects negatively the child’s performance and activities, given that children with autism are ordinary people in terms of appearance. It is universally estimated that a child out of a hundred shows autism signs for different causes that can be either physiological, or genetic, or biochemical, or social.
Autism signs appear in early childhood and they are very clear. Autistic child has actually weak social relationships: with his mother, his father, his brothers and sisters, his relatives and friends… He does not care about the presence of anyone, he does not express any joy to see them, he does not look at them even when they talk to him, he hates when they play with his toys, he does not show interest to other children. On the other hand, we note that the child with autism suffers weakness in linguistic communication: he cannot start to speak as fast and easy as other children, as he might use strange words that are just a figment of his imagination; it is difficult for him to correctly use pronouns, so he pronounces his name to express his request: “Carl wants to eat” instead of “I want to eat”. Other symptoms that can indicate your child is developing autism are repetition and limitations: his toys are always the same; there is no renewal in his life, he digs himself into the mortal routine of life and refuses to change; he is strongly attached to things around him and takes them with him everywhere he goes as they constitute his whole world; and he often repeats the same hand gestures when thinking, talking or singing.
Now, what about treatments?
There is no treatment that can cure autism. However, doctors are able to reduce the aggravation of this disease and mitigate its symptoms, taking into account the fact that each case has its own treatment that properly corresponds to the medical status of the child. In short, the treatment involves a wide range of behavioral therapies that contribute first to skill acquisition and learning achievement, and moderate then the strange behavior of the child. Treatment can also include relevant speech therapies, as well as natural or physical therapies, and it can be based on certain medications, and on a change in diet.
It should be noted that prevention is better than cure, and that early intervention is very important in the first three years. To achieve this, it is crucial to encourage parents to sensibly place their children for educational and training activities, prudently activate communication sessions between them and their child, wisely organize the environment around them, and cautiously promote their listening skill.
Why do we always proceed from the dark negative side that surrounds our children? It is time to change our way of thinking and look forward to “the small world of autism” from a completely different perspective, and to look at their world through a different lens and make sense.
When we say “autism”, the world of disease and disorders at the level of social interactions, communications, and behaviors directly occurs to our mind. “Isolationism”, “monotony”, “delay”… all these are terms that bring in our mind what we think of autism.
But who said that autism stops at this point of sadness and isolation? In fact, children with autism have strong abilities that reveal their very exceptional skills in different areas and fields. Therefore, it is primordial not to highlight weaknesses, but emphasize instead the strengths that infuse the autistic child, which in turn are effective ways to strengthen deep weaknesses.
Studies have shown that a significant number of children with autism are characterized by excellent competencies in many fields like drawing, painting, playing music, building constructions… Furthermore, some of them are blessed with some early skills that may match or even exceed those of normal children.
Who said that autistic people cannot be artists? Those children and young people are skillful and proficient in the smallest things they perform. Do you remember the young autistic boy Nadir Ammar who participated in the program “Arabs Got Talent” two years ago? He was exceptionally talented in jugglery and seized the public and the dazzled jury until the finals. Of course you will remember! He is one of the best proves of the innovational abilities that a child with autism can cultivate. Unfortunately, autistic people are victims of people’s judgments as they remain captives of their prejudices. We have to stop indulging those innocent people in more difficulties with our narrow-minded ideas.
This is the most appropriate time for us to change our melancholic and unjust perception towards autists. It is also worth to mention that all changes start within ourselves. We shall look through the eyes of the autist, now and then, in order to open up to his own world and discover the splendor of his heart and the magnificence of his mind. Let us be united altogether and make a step towards eradicating autism! Let us look at the world through their lens and try to make sense of it!