THE BEST TREATMENT FOR AUTISM
Like many autistic people, I would HATE to be subjected to any kind of cure for the condition. If people want to see the best treatment for the condition, they need to look around them.
People talk of “compassionate” people, but have people ever actually stopped to consider misplaced compassion? I can think of a classic example from when I was twelve years old. I was in my first year at high school and had basically had enough. The school had been warned by my mother not to put me in the same class as a kid who was a bully. The school ignored my mother and she didn’t follow it up. I’d had the day from hell and to make matters worse, I had asthma which was exacerbated by being in the same class as this bully and the daily stress and anxiety. To top it off, I had to go to the doctor that afternoon. My mother had made me an appointment to see a doctor I thought was okay, but as she was running behind schedule, the receptionist asked if we would like to see the doctor I had specifically asked her not to make me an appointment with, but my mother said to the receptionist, “Yes, please.” That was the trigger for a meltdown that my mother was furious about. So, the appointment with the doctor I didn’t want to see proceeded and what exacerbated things was that he also noticed my adolescent acne and proceeded to prescribe some treatment for it.
It was to be some years later that my mother said, “Oh, he was trying to help you.” Here we have an example of misplaced compassion. The doctor possibly thought he was doing me a favour, when if he had shown correctly placed compassion, he would have thought to say, firstly to my mother, “Would you please leave the room?” and asked the receptionist to stay. He’d have then said, “Just answer yes or no to this question,” to me, “Would you be happier if I let you go back out to the waiting room to wait for the other doctor?” to which I would have replied, “Yes, please.” He would then have called my mother in and said, “The Hippocratic Oath says that I must administer treatment to anyone, be they a King or a Vagabond, but my compassion extends to the patient who would be more comfortable with my colleague, and I respect that.”
Likewise, at school, my Grade Two teacher had my interests at heart by calling my mother up to school to talk to her about my difficulties with writing and activities that required hand-eye co-ordination, such as catching a ball. The neurologist I saw told my mother I had muscular dystrophy and wouldn’t live to be twelve. Well, that was an inaccurate diagnosis! My teacher realised I had a problem and wanted to help, but, unfortunately, she left a few months later to have a baby, and was replaced by a teacher whom my mother liked, because when she came up to listen to my fellow students read, she set up a little desk for my three-year old brother to sit and play and draw at. This teacher, however, was the second worst thing for my neurology and undid any of the good work my first teacher did with me. She was a bad-tempered woman who ran the class in a terrible manner, telling us when to take our jumpers off, even.
Just like society puts Braille signage up for blind people, or has changed “Walk” and “Don’t Walk” signs into a green figure and a red figure respectively at traffic lights, similar accommodations need to be made for autistic people, such as quiet spaces. Some of these we can do ourselves, such as with the major supermarkets now trading from seven in the morning until nine at night six days a week, I elect to do my shopping after eight o’clock when it is quieter and I don’t have to content with screaming kids and kids running everywhere and can just quietly get on with what I need to. A few of the night-fill staff talk to me and they know I like it better to shop at that time due to my autism and have told them why I like it that way.
What is the best thing society can do for an autistic person? The answer is NOT ABA or PBS or ANYTHING of that nature. The answer is all around you. To take the example of a blind person, many traffic lights these days emit a beeping sound when the “Don’t Walk” signal changes to “Walk” telling them it’s safe to cross. If you have an autistic person, you give them warning of any changes, you give careful scheduling, and you turn the lights down low if they are troubling them or turn the noise down a little.
To give an example in the medical field, I have regular treatment at a hospital for another neurological condition, and the nurse in charge, knowing I feel comfortable with her, gives me lots of notice if she will be away and makes sure that another staff member I’m comfortable with is there to care for me. She also understands that sudden change frightens me, and she also gives me a quiet space to have my treatment.
The treatment for autism is acceptance. Acceptance of a person’s neurology as it is. Acceptance that, like blindness means loss of sight, it can be compensated for in exceptional hearing. And like my gastroenterologist says, “It’s amazing how, what your brain lacks in some areas, it compensates for so well in others.”