Signs you or someone you know might be Autistic and AuSome
I’ve come across some unfortunate websites and company advertisements warning parents to spot the “red flags” of autism.
Spot the signs! They say, as though they’re watching for signs of high or low blood sugar, a stroke, or some other medical emergency.
Except autism isn’t a medical emergency, it’s a neurotype — a way of thinking and being in the world that is different from the majority, not less than the majority.
When companies use terms like “warning signs” and “red flags”, they use fear-mongering to scare parents into seeking treatment and intervention as early as possible — the very interventions and treatments they are selling.
As a neurodivergent parent to a neurodivergent child, I understand the desire to do the absolute best for one’s child. I understand the anxiety, the fear that we’ll miss opportunities to provide our child what he needs at the right time in his life.
Hold up just a minute though
Think back to a time in your child’s life when you couldn’t give them something you felt you “should”. Maybe you couldn’t afford a tutor when they struggled in math, or you couldn’t sign them up for a sport they wanted to play because it didn’t work with the family schedule.
I’m sure you felt guilty (I know the feeling well), and I’m sure your child was disappointed.
For a while. Maybe everyone was disappointed for a day or two, maybe even a few weeks, but then life goes on. Unless your child is missing out on having their basic needs met— shelter, food, healthcare, love, safety, and acceptance — you’ll all probably get over it fairly quickly in the grand scheme of things.
Assuming you are feeding and clothing your child, these are the most important things your child needs from you: love and acceptance.
If you wonder whether child needs therapies, treatment, and interventions, ask yourself these questions: is this in the best interest of my child? Will this help my child feel loved and accepted for who they are? What is the goal of this program?
If your child is Autistic, I’m sorry to say that you’ll have to be alert for professionals who may believe they have children’s best interests at heart, but the therapies they offer are potentially harmful.
If your child is awesome just the way they are, but perhaps need some support or accommodations in place, then focus on those: the specific ways you and others can help improve your child’s experiences.
Autism Green Flags
All that said, instead of sharing “red flags”, I will share some AuSome traits which might indicate you are (or someone you love is) Autistic.
It’s always important to mention that every person experiences their autism differently, and no two Autistics share the exact same traits.
- Often notices things others miss.
- Very good at spotting patterns.
- Excellent attention to detail.
Creative and curious
- Comes up with ideas and solutions nobody else has thought of.
- Has a vivid imagination.
- Thinks outside the box.
- Loves to learn about subjects of interest.
- Focuses deeply on those special interests for long periods of time (can be a lifelong passion for some).
Fun and independent
- Has a unique and clever sense of humour.
- Very passionate and knowledgeable about topics of interest.
- Enjoys time alone and is independent.
Fair and honest
- Strong sense of right and wrong.
- Doesn’t always have to go along with the crowd.
- Not afraid to question authority.
- Honesty* and direct communication are important.
*It’s important to note, this is different from the stereotypical fallacy that autistics are incapable of lying or malice.
We’re not some magical breed of human that never says an untrue word. Autistic children don’t grow up in NeverNeverLand and live as eternally innocent children.
What really matters
If you’re considering, or being encouraged to consider, some type of therapy, intervention, treatment, or “behaviour modification”, remember to come back to the most important question.
Why is this approach necessary?
Is the intent to make the child easier to “deal with” (i.e. more compliant)? Is the goal obedience? Is the intent to make the child seem as “normal” as possible, forcing them to try to be someone they’re not?
If the answer is yes, run away.
How does the approach help the individual with their goals? Does it align with their interests and desires? Does it respect their autonomy? Will it improve their quality of life?
Will this help the individual feel cared for and accepted for who they are?
Those should be the priorities, regardless of the colours of the flags involved.
© Jillian Enright, Neurodiversity MB
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