April 2 is World Autism Awareness day. Autism is much more in the news today, making more people aware. But few people know or understand the complexity of this disorder.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is extremely difficult to define and serves as an umbrella term for a group of complex disorders connected to brain development. Most of these are characterized by differing levels of difficulty in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviour.
I listed a few symptoms of ASD on the photo, but it has many varying symptoms. Here are a few more:
Social communication difficulties
- Difficulties with verbal and non-verbal language
- Taking things very literally (this has landed Genevieve in a few funny situations)
- Difficulty reading facial expressions or tone of voice (Genevieve’s main motivation for studying nonverbal communication – so she can understand others)
- Difficulty or inability to understand jokes or sarcasm
- Unable to take turns in a conversation
- Prefers to talk about their own interests
Social interaction difficulties
- Unable to recognise other’s emotions or feelings (often because of their inability to read body language)
- Difficulty expressing their own emotions
- Appear insensitive
- Prefer spending time on their own
- Seem to behave inappropriately (also mainly because they take things so literally, they don’t read social cues very well.)
My journey into ASD has taught me much about neurotypical and non-neurotypical behaviours, autistic meltdowns and shutdowns. As all you guys know, Genevieve (for those who don’t know – she’s the main character in my series) is known to go into a shutdown when things become too much for her, usually mentally writing a Mozart composition to regain control over her emotions or to calm her mind enough to find the solution to a problem. She would be termed as high functioning (others might diagnose her as having Asperger’s) because she is completely independent and verbal. On the far end of the spectrum, other people are nonverbal and dependent on others for daily care. In extreme laymen terms, these would be the people who live in their heads, never making contact with others.
Daily, people with ASD are faced with challenges to function ‘normally’ in a society that very seldom embraces anything different. Today, I want to salute those brave souls. And even more… I want to salute the incredible saints who stand behind these people: the parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, spouses, educators and therapists who empower these wonderfully unique people to integrate and live their lives to the fullest.