Today’s guest bloggers are Drs. Sarah Lane and Michael Cron.  Dr. Lane’s practice is in Spring Lake Heights, NJ.  She graduated from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (now part of Salus University) and completed SUNY’s Vision Therapy Residency.  Dr. Lane is passionate about enhancing the development of all her patients, especially those with developmental disorders such as autism.  Dr. Cron spent over 30 years at the Michigan College of Optometry at Ferris State University. His experiences included serving as chief of Pediatric Optometry Services, interim director of the Campus Clinic, and Dean.  Dr. Cron is passionate about retirement. 

“He has autism.”

“She’s autistic.”

When encountering someone with such a label, you may immediately start to assume what that individual is like.  Generalizations and past experiences with other individuals with the same label may interfere with your ability to see the person with a fresh perspective.  These past experiences may have come from a neighbor or a classmate in school or from watching a replay of “Rain Man” on TV.

We cannot avoid letting our past experience influence our current thinking.  However, in the case of the autism label, this predilection gets us into trouble.  We know intellectually that no two people are the same, and yet we instinctively generalize as if the label defines and describes the person. There is even controversy within the autism community about the label–  some prefer to be recognized as autistic, others as a person with autism.

When asked what you’re having for breakfast and you reply, “an omelet,” you have provided some information but left much to the imagination.  The inquirer can rightfully assume it contains eggs, but beyond that there are many possibilities of combinations of ingredients that could be included and still have your breakfast be an omelet.  To get a more precise picture of your breakfast, more details are required.

So too is it for autism, for autism has been known for some time to not be a singular entity but a constellation of symptoms and behaviors that constitute what is the autistic spectrum.  One must recognize the diversity that has become the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).  When one encounters an individual who has been identified as being ASD all generalizations must be put aside and the emphasis must be on getting to know the individual involved.

To meet the criteria for being identified as having ASD, specific characterizations must be present.  Some of the concerns present in ASD include persistent deficits in social skills including communication and interaction, restrictive and repetitive behaviors.  It is also a requirement that these symptoms must have been present early in life and sill be impairing current functioning.  There is a very wide range of symptoms, skill deficits, and levels of social or occupational impairment that an individual within the autism spectrum can demonstrate.  The psychological guidelines include different levels of ASD based on the amount of support the individual requires.

So, when encountering an individual who has been identified as being “autistic,” please realize that you need to know much more about that person before you can have a realistic picture of their capabilities and their challenges.  The more we learn about autism we discover that drastic improvements can be made with appropriate interventions and recovery is possible in some cases.  Much more information can be gathered on-line, including the CDC site – http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/

(wonderful photo “autism” by helpingting on Flickr, with a creative commons license, no changes were made)

Learn more:

April is Autism Awareness Month

Is autism environmental?