Celebrating Differences

By Ayesha Anjum
Tue, 04, 24

Celebrated every year on 2nd April, World Autism Day raises awareness about autistic individuals throughout the world. You! takes a look…

Celebrating Differences

world austism day

Autism spectrum disorder is a neurological and developmental disorder that affects how people interact, communicate with others, learn, and behave. This disorder can be diagnosed at any age and can affect anyone. Generally, people are not aware of this disorder, so in order to raise awareness of this neurological disorder World Autism Day is celebrated on the 2nd of April every year to debunk prevalent misconceptions about it. With awareness comes acceptance, and with that appropriate support ensues. The World Autism Day presents an opportunity to delve deeper into the intricacies of autism, fostering dialogue to define, discuss, and ultimately find possible treatment.

Since autism is a recently learned about disorder, doctors and researchers are still studying it. There isn’t a one stop solution or fix to it, it is a constant treatment. It’s a manageable condition with the right handling of an individual’s disorder. According to the Pakistan Autism Society (PAS), estimates about 350,000 children in Pakistan have autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This means that about one in 100 children in Pakistan have Autism. Celebrating autism and honouring autistic individuals involves fostering a culture of acceptance, understanding, and inclusion. It’s essential to recognise that autism is just one aspect of a person’s identity and that individuals with autism contribute valuable perspectives and talents to society.

Autistic individuals possess unique strengths and abilities, and are often extremely creative. They excel in areas such as attention to detail, pattern recognition and problem-solving. Their unconventional thinking and innovative approaches offer fresh insights and enrich various fields, from art and technology to science and advocacy. By embracing neurodiversity and celebrating the diverse talents and contributions of autistic individuals, we create a more vibrant and inclusive society where everyone’s strengths are valued and respected.

What is Autism?

Autism is known as a ‘spectrum’ disorder because there is a wide variation in the type and severity of symptoms people experience. People of all genders, races, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds can be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. ASD are a diverse group of conditions. They are characterised by some degree of difficulty with social interaction and communication. Other characteristics are atypical patterns of activities and behaviours, such as difficulty with transition from one activity to another, a focus on details and unusual reactions to sensations. Although ASD can be a lifelong disorder, treatments and services can improve a person’s symptoms and daily functioning.

The diagnosis

Before one starts to administer treatment, how do we know it is ASD? Diagnosing autism in individuals, whether children or adults, involves a comprehensive evaluation conducted by qualified healthcare professionals, such as developmental paediatricians, child psychologists, psychiatrists, or neurologists.

Celebrating Differences

These assessments rely on various indicators to identify autism spectrum disorder (ASD). One key aspect is social communication challenges, which may manifest as difficulties in understanding and using verbal and nonverbal cues, such as gestures or tone of voice. Individuals might struggle with initiating or maintaining conversations, exhibiting limited or repetitive language patterns. Social interaction difficulties are often observed, including challenges in forming and maintaining relationships, making eye contact, or interpreting social norms and cues. Repetitive behaviours and intense interests in specific topics or objects are also common signs. These might manifest as engaging in repetitive movements or actions and showing a strong fixation on certain subjects. Additionally, sensory sensitivities, such as heightened or reduced responses to sensory stimuli like lights or textures, may be apparent. It’s important to recognise that autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning individuals may vary widely in their strengths, challenges, and required support levels. Therefore, a thorough assessment by professionals, trained in autism diagnosis, is crucial for accurate identification and appropriate support planning.

The treatment

The most effective treatment approach for autism involves early intervention, individualised support, and a combination of therapies tailored to address the specific strengths and challenges of each person with ASD. Collaboration between healthcare professionals, educators, therapists, and families is essential to develop comprehensive treatment plans and support individuals in reaching their full potential. Treatment for autism spectrum disorder encompasses a multidisciplinary approach tailored to individual needs including behavioural therapies, notably Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT); target behaviour modification and social skill enhancement. On the other hand, speech and language therapy addresses communication difficulties, while occupational therapy focuses on developing daily living skills and managing sensory sensitivities. Educational interventions, such as Individualised Education Plans (IEPs), offer structured learning environments adapted to the individual. Medications may be prescribed to alleviate associated symptoms like anxiety or hyperactivity, though they do not target core ASD traits.

Early intervention is paramount for optimal outcomes, with a personalised blend of therapies essential for effective management. Collaboration among healthcare professionals, educators, therapists, and families is fundamental in developing comprehensive treatment plans. By combining various interventions and support strategies, individuals with ASD can better navigate their challenges, enhance their skills, and improve their quality of life, empowering them to reach their full potential within their unique neurodiversity.

Let’s embrace diversity

As a society, it’s imperative that we cultivate greater compassion and empathy towards individuals on the autism spectrum, regardless of whether they have high functioning autism or are classified as having lower functioning levels. While their behaviours might not always align with conventional norms, it’s crucial to approach them with consideration, understanding, and tolerance. It’s time for us to reassess the language we use, ensuring it doesn’t inadvertently demean or insult those with the disorder. By fostering an environment of acceptance and respect, we can create a more inclusive society where individuals with autism feel valued and supported. Let’s embrace neurodiversity and celebrate the unique perspectives and contributions of every individual, recognising that our differences enrich the fabric of humanity.