When last did you research “what is autism or what is autism spectrum disorder (ASD)” online?

When we research or search the topic: “what is autism or what is autism spectrum disorder (ASD)” – then the top 10 pages of information always says more of less the same thing.

Let me summarise it for you!  The vast majority of websites say that autism spectrum disorder is a complex developmental disability, or it will say that ASD is a complex neurological disorder, or something along the lines of ASD refers to a spectrum of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and nonverbal communication…

Whilst all the information is accurate – I personally don’t look at Autism in this way at all.  To me autism is not about what the DSM says it is.  It is also not something that can be summarised on a piece of paper. To me autism is a uniqueness!

When I look at autism around me, I see 80 totally unique little people that attend the Amazing K Autism School and Therapy Centre.  I see students from years past and I see my very own daughter.  Each a whole person, each with a personality larger than life and in most cases challenges that differ day and night.  Some talk and communicate through verbal speech, they answer questions and ask question.  They bond with friends but they struggle with receptive or expressive language.  Many autistic children are silent and don’t use language to communicate.

Some Autistic children have challenges with motor planning and some don’t struggle at all – they excel when given proper instruction. Most of the children I have met in my life make beautiful eye contact, they will visually follow slow and fast moving objects and they can retain eye contact when needed. Age to me is the only things that stands between having a social autistic child and an isolated child (accept in the case of my daughter that is).  it is my experience that children with autism love people and they love playing but they need help at a young age to integrate socially and learn group activities.  I would go as far as to say that my own daughter is most likely the only autistic person that I personally know that TRULY struggles with people.  She has no interest in being around other children or people and far prefers her own space and company.

Did you know that Autism is never the same? This is how I see it:

  • Not all autistic children struggle to understand how other people feel.
  • Many autists have no problem with sensory challenges or loud noises.
  • Anxiety is also not a co-morbidity of autism. Many people with autism spectrum disorder have no anxiety issues to speak of.
  • The ability to take instruction or process language is another element that not all autistic people struggle with. My daughter oddly enough has no processing problems at all yet she is deemed profoundly autistic and she remains non-verbal at 13.
  • Not all autistic people do or think the same thing repeatedly.
  • Autism spectrum disorder is not an illness and does not need to be cured. Having autism does not mean that the person has a disease – IT MEANS THEY ARE DIFFERENT and that they process life differently.

So where does this leave a parent wanting to know: “what is autism”?

Well I guess the only advice I have on that is for you not to focus on the word “autism” or the diagnosis.  Rather just get to know your child for the amazing person her/she is.  Get professional assistance to help your child overcome these development challenges that he/she may be struggling with and approach your Childs autism treatment plan or early intervention plan holistically.  Don’t focus on only 1 aspect of the Childs development at a time.

Ilse Kilian-Ross
ilse@amazingk.co.za

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, ABA, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.