Autism: Living With the Fear of the Unknown

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People fear and hate what they don't understand. This is a given, and has played itself out throughout history. From the attacks of religious "mysteries" in the Ancient world to modern day fear around, well, just about everything, we seem to thrive on the thrill of fear. We even have a whole industry in the media designed to either insight panic or deliberately scare us through fictional movies. Autism is no exception.

It has been almost 70 years since Leo Kanner first used Autism as a diagnosis, and defined what we see as the "typical" behavioral symptoms of Autism. Since then theories have run the gambit from schizophrenia as the cause to poor parenting. With every new theory, someone gets hurt, someone gets offended, and everyone becomes afraid of their child being different.

While the first diagnosis of Autism was made in 1943, there are many documented examples of children who would later be diagnosed as being on the Spectrum. Because they were seen as children without souls or possessed by evil spirits, early treatments were generally harsh. And it seems that even today harsh treatments continue, even in our "more enlightened" age.

Why? Because we fear the unknown. We don't know what Autism is, just the results of it. We have people, children and adults, that seem to ignore all those around them. They do not make social connections, because they don't know how. Stuff that is natural to a neurotypical person, like catching and mimicking body language, is foreign to a person with Autism. And because they are so different and we don't know why, we are afraid of them.

So what happens when your child is diagnosed as being on the spectrum? I can only speak for myself, but it begins with going through the stages of grief. I worked my way through all seven stages, from denial to final acceptance. At that point, we as parents have a crossroads to match. We need to decide what to do. Do we blame others, look for a scapegoat? Or do we take the responsibility on ourselves to do what is right for our children and help them succeed? The answer is obvious, as every parent wants their child to succeed. So that means we work, and we work hard with our children to make sure they learn those necessary skills to succeed in life. As they say in the movies, "fear is not an option".

So let me reach out to all you parents out there who are looking for answers in your child's Autism diagnosis. Don't fear it, don't hate it. Accept it. Your child, after all, is in great company with some of the greatest minds of History. Embrace it, and never give up.

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