Hello everyone! Welcome to Spring! It is April; hopefully we will start to see some natural, fresh, new, life to be sprung around Calgary! Spring is always a time that feels like a fresh/ clean start, with so many possibilities for the upcoming spring, summer, and fall months! Whether that be spring cleaning, home decluttering, garden prepping, vacation plans, or maybe just general excitement for warmer weather and longer days!
April is also Autism Acceptance Month around the world. This means the promotion of inclusion, acceptance, and generating more knowledge around people diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In 2008, the UN designated April 2nd to be National Autism Awareness Day. This has since branched from Autism Awareness Day to Autism Acceptance Month. The shift from awareness to acceptance, is to promote the feeling of acceptance within the ASD community; meanwhile, the shift from day to month, is to extend the day into a month designated to different workshops and events to educate professionals on how we can best support individuals within the autism spectrum.
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
ASD is an intricate developmental condition involving perpetual challenges with social development and communication, restricted interests, and repetitive behaviors.
As identified by the American Psychiatric Association (2011):
Challenges with social development and communication can be identified as:
limited sharing of interests with peers
difficulty interpreting / understanding emotions (one's own and others)
aversion to eye contact
lack of interpretation / understanding of non-verbal cues
abstract ideas interpreted literally
difficulty making and maintaining friendships
Challenges with interests and repetitive behaviors include:
inflexible behavior and difficulty coping with change
expecting others to be equally interested in unique / abstract topics
organizing objects in an extremely particular manner
The term "Autism Spectrum Disorder" emulates the current, progressive view on the impact of ASD on individual's learning and behavior. This view acknowledges that ASD can range from mild to severe in any of the areas of development listed above.
Figure 1: [Photograph of Autism on the Spectrum]. (2023). @autism_happy_place. Retrieved March 28, 2023, from https://www.instagram.com/p/CdDr6nsNA3l/
Common Myths About Individuals on the Autism Spectrum
Bad Parenting Causes Autism
Before autism was better understood, it was thought that children presenting these behavior difficulties, associated with the condition, were a result of inadequate parenting. This ignorance is often "confirmed" by instances such as when children who are on the spectrum are in a public place. This situation is often overwhelming for these individuals; therefore, it is common for the child to go into meltdown: screaming, running away, head banging, and so on. Onlookers may see this behavior and think poorly of the parenting, expecting the parents to discipline their child. However, what these onlookers do not understand is that these parents realize that disciplining their child with autism, looks differently than a child without autism. The same methods do not work. Common discipline methods will not re-wire the child's brain, and has the capacity to make the situation worse.
The most recent evidence has shown that autism is a genetically inherited condition, where the child's lived experiences shape the effects of the condition.
Autistic People Can't Speak / Have 'Extraordinary' Skills / Can't Have Long-Term Romantic Relationships / Do Not Want to Make Friends
There are a number of extreme allegations that have been made about autistic individuals, such as the ones above. The first thing to note, again, is that an individual with ASD, for example, is not either non-verbal, or verbal, they may lie somewhere in-between the two. AND they may lie somewhere different on that spectrum depending on the situation they're currently in!
Many autistic people do perform exceptionally in certain areas such as mathematics, sciences, or arts. This is because, often, they do not use up mental capacity worrying about everyday things such as what to wear today; instead, they put all their focus into some one thing they're interested in, and they become an expert in it. However, often, these individuals struggle with everyday tasks such as tying their shoes. Alternatively, there are individuals on the spectrum who do not particularly excel in a particular scholar; however, they do not struggle as much with their day-to-day tasks.
We cannot emphasize enough that there is no hard, concrete, definitions of individuals on the spectrum. They are all individuals, with their own individual strengths and weaknesses, just like the rest of us.
Children Grow Out of Autism
Research has shown that autism is a condition in which it affects every part of the person. To grow out of autism is to change everything about what this person is, and is not possible.
This is a common myth because individuals with autism often do have a change of outward symptoms as they grow into adults. They develop, and mature, just as everyone else does. This rate of change may be different than those without living on the spectrum; however, the changes do still occur. New coping strategies, or behavioral modification lessons may be learned, an autistic individual may find a group of friends willing to accept their 'quirks' and therefore allow the individual to be themselves and live a more outwardly 'normal' life.
As stated by Wallace-Iles, "A diagnosis of autism means only one thing: you're autistic; having a condition you can grow out of is something entirely different" (Autism All Stars, n.d., as cited in Wallace-Iles, 2017).
Here at CTI, we value the community that we are becoming a part of, as well as the community we are building within our institute. We value the relationships we are building between our practitioners and clients, between the students, their mentors, and their clients, and the relationships that are beginning to form between clients! We have a number of practitioners who are skilled and trained in assessments done to help you understand yourself better, where, and if, you may lie within the spectrum, and provide support in leading a strong, healthy, happy life, living with diagnosis.
With our co-relational model as our guide in how we are running the clinic, we have opened up space for our Neuro-Divergent Group Therapy Program, as well as our Peer-Support Mentorship Program that aligns those that live with a mental health experience to support another that does so as well! There is plenty of information on our website if you're interested in being a part of this community, or you can always call us at the office (403)-640-7667 and one our administrative team members would be happy to provide you with further information on some of these services!
American Psychiatric Association. (2021). What is Autism Spectrum Disorder? 2023 American Psychiatric Association. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/autism/what-is-autism-spectrum-disorder
Autism All Stars. (n.d.). Top 10 Autism Myths. https://autism-all-stars.org/top-10-autism-myths/