Dr. Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D,B.C.S.A.,DAPA.

Dr. Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D,B.C.S.A.,DAPA.
e-mail: batushkad@yahoo.com

Saturday, March 08, 2008


The causation of autism remains in the realm of theory and is speculative. There exists many approaches towards how individuals and society regard autistic individuals. Autism is an umbrella term. It is not a disease, nor is it really an 'entity' in itself. Rather, it is a description of how a person acts and how they relate to their world. Autism is thus very much a part of who the person is. Many programs (such as ABA) seek to alter the autistic person and make them something other. The question is what exactly are we seeking to make the autistic person into and how exactly are we going to make that change? Are we solely seeking to coerce and force a person to behave as a 'typical' person would? Are we programming the person to act in ways that the majority would find more acceptable? Are we assuming that the autistic person is not to be valued? Are we assuming that the autistic person has no innate strengths because they may be developmentally different?
Are we assuming that these individuals lack communication because they may not speak? Are we assuming the likes and dislikes of the autistic person? Are we assuming that they lack intellect?
The attitudes that we put forward are readily understood and perceived. Because an autistic person may lack verbal communication does not mean they do not communicate. It is for the non-autistic persons to be able to learn the language. And it is hear that I given an analogy of what our relationship and help to autistic persons should be. If I am from India and speak Hindi, and I move to England, should I be expected to give up my culture, my language, my identity and adopt all that it means to be 'English'? However, if I do not learn English and something about what life is like in England, I may indeed have some challenges within that society. Therefore, those who wish to help the autistic person should not be set on the notion that they must change the person or force them to be 'typical' but rather accept their developmental difference and guide them into understanding something about the majority who are unlike them, so that they can be able to navigate through society with lesser challenges.
It is necessary for us to see beyond the label. It is necessary for us to understand the autistic person's experience and not come to assumptions based solely on what we may conclude from our limited observation. We must respect the autonomy of autistic persons, allowing them to advocate for themselves, and not bore them with rote exercises that frustrate them or with conceptions that they are a nuisance and that part of who they are must be eradicated. We can begin to join in with them, we can help to forge emotional connections. The autistic person may struggle with their conceptions of bodily space, they may experience sensory challenges that make the mainstream world a confusing place to be. Those in the helping professions must keep sight of compassion and patience and be able to help the autistic person explore and navigate through the world at their own pace. We cannot overwhelm. But because an autistic person may face the challenges I mention does not mean that they lack understanding, often they understand very well, it is us non-autistic persons who do not understand but think that we do. We can only understand by being with and joining with those who know firsthand what it is to be developmentally different.
We can seek to be guides and facilitators, to provide a voice when one may be lacking a voice, to journey with, not to coerce or change.

-Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D.

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