The majority of motherhood I’ve spent being a professional “googler.” Google has explained many things for me like, micro-prematurity, brain hemorrhage, hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy, and the list goes on. I stroked the keys to a word much smaller than the rest, with a definition that left me puzzled; Autism.
Over a century ago Autism was first observed, and since then the meaning of autism has taken on many forms. In 1911 Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler first uses the term in reference to certain symptoms of schizophrenia. From that spiraled beliefs, one being that autism symptoms were caused by diet. In 1930 the first use of electroconvulsive therapy for Autism to try to correct antisocial and self-destructive behavior. Not until 1943 was there a definition for autism put in place, by child psychiatrist Leo Kanner. Kanner describes autism as “lack of affective contact, fascination with objects, desire for sameness and non-communicative language before 30 months of age.” Although the definition of Autism has since then evolved and most commonly referred to today as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), for myself I’m left wondering after over a hundred years of research, how is “why” still important?
Before my son was diagnosed with ASD at age 4, I knew very little about autism, but what I did know was because of my best friend Megan. There’re many reasons why she’s my best friend but to name a few; Johnny, Jake, Joel, and Jarrett. Megan has four brothers on the Autism Spectrum, and the boys range from, Aspergers to Autistic Disorder. I feel unbelievably fortunate to have Megan and her family part of my life, because getting to know the boys over the past 9 years has helped me view autism through many different windows. A range of unique individuals, navigating the life in front of them, with the help of some pretty amazing people they call Mom, Dad, Megan, and Mollie. Megan’s family in many ways has been a stepping stone down paths unknown for myself as a parent of a child with autism. Although the four boys and my son have similarities among autistic traits, it’s their unique differences that sets them apart.
Autism is so very different, from the way it affects each person, to the way the world perceives it, that one definition simply does not service it. For myself I feel the focus of why stems from a hunger of those still searching for a “cure” to autism. I want to live in a world not focused on why, but how. How can we make therapies affordable and more available for children and adults with autism? How can we grow the need to develop affordable long term care facilities for adults with autism? How can we create more jobs for adults with autism? How after 100 plus years are we searching for why? How?
The saying goes, “if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” Beyond acceptance I have a dream, that for every one neurotypical person in the world, that they meet three people with autism. I hope each person will find exactly what I did, that the ability of each individual you meet with autism has impacted your life in such a way, that leaves you searching with “how could I ever imagine my life without them in it!?” Autism is undefined, stop searching for why; find the how.