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FunTimes Magazine

Let's Talk About Autism

Aug 27, 2021 02:00PM ● By Anand Subramanian

Figure 1 - The Visual Representation of Autism. Source - Google

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a broad medical category. They are recognized by some impairment with human contact and interaction, atypical patterns of responses, such as difficulties transitioning from one task to another, a focus on specifics, and odd reactions to stimuli. Autism spectrum disorder was formerly thought to occur exclusively in well-resourced nations with advanced technological progress. Public awareness is still low, and misinformation abounds, and there is a major gap in our awareness of the global effect of autism spectrum disorders, with little documented on autism in Africa. In this article, we'll delve into autism spectrum disorder and learn about the facts surrounding it.

Social communication and interaction are essential to our survival because they allow us to learn from our surroundings and form relationships. Failure to communicate is frequently connected with dissatisfaction and behavioral problems since it deprives a kid of the ability to influence what is going on in their immediate surroundings. According to CDC, autism now affects one out of every 59 youngsters, up from one out of every 68 a few years ago, and one out of every 150 nearly two decades ago. ASD is diagnosed four times more frequently in boys than in females. Medical expenses for youth with ASD are 4.1–6.2 times higher than for those without ASD.

According to Bakare and Munir's literature on ASD in Africa, children in Africa with autism spectrum disorder are diagnosed later than those in high-income nations. The ages of diagnosis have been recorded to range from 8 years to puberty. One of the most significant moral and economic challenges in recognizing children with an autism spectrum disorder in Africa is the general lack of appropriate services, the poor quality of existing educational and medical infrastructure, and a lack of awareness among the African general population as well as the medical community. In the US, poverty rates in Black neighborhoods are frequently greater than in White, non-Hispanic communities. Children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are less likely to be examined and diagnosed with ASD than children from better socioeconomic backgrounds. These delays are thought to have a substantial influence on an even more serious health discrepancy involving the proportion of autistic children who also have intellectual impairment. Researchers examined data from 584 Black children with autism who were involved in an autism research network and discovered that children were diagnosed at an average age of 65 months. According to the survey, about 38% reported a considerable wait time to see a professional, 45 percent saw several professionals, and 16 percent saw at least six professionals before being diagnosed. CDC found that 47 percent of Black children with autism had an intellectual impairment, compared to 27 percent of White children. Black youths are roughly three times more likely than white peers to be executed by police, and those with autism are seven times more likely to face police than “high functioning” persons. People on the autistic spectrum may respond improperly to police and have difficulty obeying instructions, depending on the degree of their condition.

Figure 2 - Autism in African Population. Source - Google

The reaction of each family to an ASD diagnosis will differ based on a variety of circumstances. When a kid is diagnosed with autism, parents and other family members often feel a range of distressing emotions. They may experience denial or refuse to realize that this is occurring with their child. Before moving on, some people lament the loss of their child's goals and dreams. Anger is a normal part of the process, and it is generally aimed towards someone in the family. It is a legitimate and anticipated emotion to the stress that comes with their child's diagnosis. Aside from substantial financial hardship and time constraints, increased rates of divorce and worse overall family well-being emphasize the burden that having an ASD kid may impose on families.  These parent and family influences have a mutually detrimental impact on the diagnosed kid and can even help to reduce the good benefits of treatments. While handling the autistic child, it is common for parents to have little time or energy left to focus on their other children. Brothers and sisters of autistic children sometimes encounter difficulties. At a very young age, they never understand what is wrong with their autistic sibling. They never grasp what is wrong with their autistic brother when they are very little. When their parents spend more time with their autistic siblings, they develop sentiments of anger and envy.

Figure 3 - Spreading awareness and knowledge about autism. Source - Pexel

Parenting a kid with autism is an uphill battle for parents of color: whether coping with misdiagnosis or not knowing where to turn, it can be an emotional trip along an often unexplored route. The confluence of culture, race, and disability has brought to light the difficulties that families of color experience while seeking help. Diverse cultural perspectives of disability, limited access, unfamiliarity with available service options, and service providers' lack of understanding of factors such as race, social class, cultural values, and experiences all pose barriers to accessing services for minority families with disabled children. According to CDC research, clinicians were more likely to diagnose autistic Black children with other illnesses, most often ADHD. As a result, children's care, support, and advocacy are delayed.

Figure 4 - Right diagnosis at right time is highly important for ASD. Source - Google 

Autism has entered the national language, yet it is still mainly viewed as a White illness. Two popular television shows, Netflix's Atypical and ABC's The Good Doctor, reinforce this impression. Both shows have autistic main characters who are White people. However, successful Black personalities and ordinary Black parents are pushing autism into the spotlight in the Black community. Holly Peete Robinson, an actress, and Toni Braxton, a singer, have spoken out about their autistic children. Autism has been openly discussed by personalities such as John Howard, Brenna Clark, and Armani Williams. The Autism Women's Network and Lydia X. Z. Brown collaborated on the book All the Weight of Our Dreams: Living Racialized Autism. Poetry, essays, short fiction, photography, paintings, and drawings by autistic persons of color are included in the anthology, which is the first of its kind. Several non-profit organizations, like The Color of Autism Foundation and Autism in Black, are dedicated to assisting families in identifying autism early and assisting autistic children in reaching their full potential.

A wide range of therapies, beginning in early childhood and continuing throughout life, can improve the development, health, well-being, and quality of life of persons with autism. According to research, the most successful therapy is the employment of early intensive behavioral interventions aimed at improving the functioning of the afflicted kid. Language, social responsiveness, imitation skills, and acceptable actions are all emphasized in these therapies. However, like with many disorders, family participation is essential. Repetition of skills learned in treatment at home is critical for children's growth. Children with autism, like everyone else, desire to engage with others. Having the appropriate tools and putting in the necessary practice may go a long way toward social success.

 Anand Subramanian is a freelance photographer and content writer based out of Tamil Nadu, India. Having a background in Engineering always made him curious about life on the other side of the spectrum. He leapt forward towards the Photography life and never looked back. Specializing in Documentary and  Portrait photography gave him an up-close and personal view into the complexities of human beings and those experiences helped him branch out from visual to words. Today he is mentoring passionate photographers and writing about the different dimensions of the art world.

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