Thursday, June 24, 2010

The spectrum

From the time we received my son's diagnosis in 2008 I have spent quite a bit of time reading about and researching autism. One of the first things I learned was that this is a spectrum disorder which affects each individual in a different way. This also means that people on the spectrum have a wide range of abilities and many excel in their particular area of interest. In our case I see how remarkable our son's memory is and how aware he can be of his surroundings at any given time. He just turned 4 and while we are unable to hold a conversation with him, his spontaneous speech is picking up and he will request certain items throughout the day. In many ways our boy is just like other typically developing 4 year olds becoming a little more independent as he gets older.

This brings me to the point I wanted to make on the idea of spectrums. Aren't we all on a spectrum of some sort and not just individuals affected by autism? I have strengths and weaknesses just like anyone else and everyone has a unique set of talents. Once we start going to school we are graded on our performance and we all end up at different levels academically. Once we enter the workforce there are those that earn quite a bit money in their careers, there are some who earn very little, and many of us end up somewhere in the middle of the financial spectrum. The challenges that individuals with autism and their families face can be difficult, frustrating, and at times daunting. However, I feel that as a society we should really try and celebrate the many different contributions that we all make to this world. Instead of ostracizing groups of people for perceived differences we should embrace them. We are all part of one giant spectrum with many different abilities, beliefs, and customs. As a father to a child with autism I think it is important for others who are not really aware of the disorder to try and look through the diagnosis. My advice to them is to try and focus on the person and not just a behavior that may be seem odd or inappropriate. We want the best for our children and most of all we want them to be accepted by their peers. Whatever abilities a person has they can find a way to contribute in a positive way that can enrich their lives. We all learn at different rates, and we speak many different languages, and just because at this point in time my son is unable to carry on a conversation it does not mean he is unable to communicate with his family. He just does it different than most…


  1. I think it was having a son with "differences" to help me truly understand what a vast spectrum of human-ness there really is. And not just understand, but admire, and appreciate! What a gift.

  2. Well said! Sounds like you are a kindred spirit :-) I find myself firmly in the "Go neurodiversity!" camp now, but I didn't get here overnight. It was scary at first and I was angry a lot. So I understand those feelings when other parents express them with regards autism. But if anyone out there wants to know if it's possible to be happy, joyful, active and fulfilled as a family with an autistic family member, I'm so glad there are voices out there like yours, responding with an enthusiastic, "YES! We're happy!" So are we :-)