Well, I had a stray thought a few moments about making a blog post about autism, and really discuss the topic as a whole. The stray thought was partially triggered by a thought I have circling in the back of my mind that goes something like this: "If I really were to be diagnosed with Asperger's (if you didn't know, it's the mildest form of autism), what would it mean for me?". It came to evolve into something along the lines of "I know I've discussed it a lot before, but . Society lacks awareness of the issue, regardless of how much they may think otherwise. It's not really that much of a black and white topic, as many people who have invested research into it would understand. If anything, autism in general can be pretty complicated. I know plenty about the issue considering I've been researching into it for the past 3 years or so.
What is Autism, Really?
This may seem straight-forward, but it's not. It can be told a number of ways, as it still isn't truly understood and exactly established how exactly to define it. Here's a couple of examples: one from Leo Kanner, a psychiatrist who was one of the first to study autism, and another from the Autistic Society of America, respectively.
- "a developmental disability which affects language and communication, sensory processing and motor skills, cognition, and interaction"
- "Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Both children and adults with autism typically show difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities."
These two definitions aren't exactly conclusive. Kanner's way of defining It is way more to the point, but the ASA's definition has some nuance lacked by the former. Sure, these definitions are clearly describing autism as anybody invested into the topic would know of it, but they aren't entirely congruous with each other. They both properly describe autism as developmental (the disability part isn't necessarily accepted much anymore by the autistic community). Both also describe issues with social interaction, but here's where they split. Kanner describes it affecting sensory processing, motor skills, and cognition as well. The ASA on the other hand describes in more detail how it impacts the affected. It states that it occurs within the first three years of life and that it's a complex disorder that isn't truly understood by the psychiatric community, and that autism in itself is a catch-all term. Both are correct in their own ways. But I personally believe this is the way I would define Autism:
"Autism is an umbrella term for a developmental disorder that affects a variety of functions of the brain including the processing of sensory information, communication, motor skills, and also may effect the emotional stability of the affected. Most also affect cognitive skills. The disorder normally shows signs in the first three years, but some milder forms may not be diagnosed until adulthood, due to the fact that it's generally associated with cognitive deficiency, but they will nonetheless show difficulties in specific areas that may become concerning later in life."
Wow that was a mouthful. It's basically a combination of both definitions, but a bit modernized as both definitions were a bit aged. In simpler terms, I'm stating that autism is actually a term for several conditions that affect neurological development. That's probably the simplest it could be made, really.
What are the Symptoms of an Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Whoa. Back up. ASDs have a multitude of complex, sometimes even contradictory symptoms.Nobody diagnosed with autism really crosses off every single box. It's always been more about an interpretation of a variety of symptoms that are indicative of an ASD. Here's some of the characteristics that are usually present in most autists. Note that the way these are presented aren't very specific, and in fact can allude to a vast array of symptoms. I will put them down here, and then relate them to myself to sort of explain what they're supposed to mean.
- Atypical movements. I have a consistent need to pop my knuckles, a very odd gait that changes from time to time (to explain, it's sort of a limp, sort of a long stride, and sort of a march), I also will occasionally rock back and forth in chairs, especially if I don't feel secure in them (in other words if I can't lean back far enough in it...)
- Communication issues. I don't think I really need to explain this one. Just not being able to communicate in an effective manner.
- Unusual responses to sensory input. I have always had issues with the sound of vacuum cleaners, I find them torturous and loud. So when one's going I usually have a habit of making weird noises in imitation of it to block the noise from them out.
- Unusual development for age. Well, considering I watch quite a variety of cartoons and enjoy them when most people around me my age would just cringe, the fact that I am quite the fan of Pixar, and that I still retain a borderline obsession with video games (particularly "unusual" in this category a love of the Pokémon and Mario franchises). Not to mention that I couldn't tie my shoes until I was 10, and I wet my bed until I was about 14. I also wet myself in public more than once, but that was more of a social anxiety issue.
- Specialized interests. Well, I feel the need to constantly discuss League of Legends and Paladins related things whether it be with somebody else or (99.99% of the time) myself. Also, my interest in game development kind of falls into this as well.
- Potentially having problems with the following: anxiety, depression, ADHD, epilepsy, dyspraxia, et cetera. I can check two of those boxes. I have had unchecked anxiety and depression issues for years now. As for ADHD, I don't think I have it but I do sort of fit the bill, albeit to a smaller degree.
- (Most Forms) Cognitive Delays. I actually had some. I was in special education classes until I was in the fifth grade. Even though I excelled in math, I was slow with reading initially. I had a kindergarten reading level in the third grade... That's pretty bad. But by the fifth grade, I had gotten ahead of the curb there as well, so I guess that's where it ended. By the sixth grade, I was able to read the entirety of Watership Down in a matter of a week (trust me, it is long. By long, I mean like the book was in excess of 400 pages... But the book is definitely a good book I'd more than definitely recommend to anyone with the patience to muddle through the beginning 40 pages or so).
These are generally what psychiatrists and psychologists look for in diagnosing somebody with an autism spectrum disorder. They look for problems of those varieties, and if qualified professionals observe you and believe that you check enough boxes, they will diagnose you with a form of autism depending on which you check and don't. It's a bit more complicated than it seems, because different people have different requirements for what they'll diagnose as autistic...
I'll release a part 2 and maybe a part 3 in the future. Maybe not too soon, but likely after a few days or so. I've really been spamming out these blog posts lately, and there's a chance I may not be able to post for a little while... Oh well... People are probably tired of me just posting more and more s*** anyways. *shrug*