Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Auties aren't affectionate??

I keep reading and hearing about the surprise felt about someone autistic being affectionate as a child.

Autism is a neurological disorder that affects the way one processes information. Because one is greatly lacking in filters between parts of the brain and from their senses, things are so overwhelming they often pull back into their own world to protect themselves.

In what way does this mean a child would not be affectionate?

My mother, when I told her I was HFA, looked confused and said "but you were so affectionate as a child"... as though that solved that. My father, on the other hand, said "that explains it. All you kids were different, but you were more different than your sibling". *laughs*

As an adult, I am better capable of dealing with things and have learned to articulate. Now only people who spend substantial amounts of time with me, or know autistics, realize that I am. Funny that everyone who has lived with, worked with, or seriously studied autism can pick me out in a matter of minutes though!

And I am, without any doubt, affectionate. If I like someone, I pet them, snuggle into them, stand very close to them, sit practically in (or actually in) their lap... I find it very difficult to be near anyone I like without touching them.

My faerie godson, Max, is a low functioning autistic (or PDDNOS) and he is quite affectionate. Most of my friends who are autistic are affectionate...

I think this stems from when "autism" only meant the extremely low functioning cases where the nerves are so sensitive the child couldn't be touched. But they still snuggled into things of their choosing and banged into walls to get touch. So even then, it was more a lack of insight than a lack of affection.

However, if you assume a child can't be affectionate, are you going to be as likely to give affection? Or to recognize their attempts at affection? I worry that this concpt keeps autistics from learning about affection or getting their needs met.

The broadening of the autistic spectrum has had interesting ramifications for everyone involved. I would not have counted as autistic when I was going to school. Possibly not even a decade ago. However, my brain certainly works in the same filter-free fashion, so it's good that they are learning more.

I have high hopes that "affectionate" won't be considered anti-autistic for much longer. It's a misconception that can be a self fulfilling prophecy!


Joe said...

When you say that people who work with autistics can pick you out in a matter of minutes, are you including people who only work with child autistics? Ther are so many people, including most of the professionals, that only view autism as a childhood thing, as if one magically stops being autistic as an adult, or, if not diagnosed as a child, can obviously then not be an autistic as an adult.
I personally find this attitude rather stupid. Admittedly, it is harder to diagnose an adult because by then, most higher functioning autistics have learned some degree of coping strategies in order to survive and so don't test like child autistics do. Still, doesn't mean they are no longer autistic any more than an alcoholic is no longer an alcoholic simply because they have learned not to drink. Recoering addicts know it is only constant diligence that keeps them from reverting, as do coping autistics. Ok, sorry for the soapbox. Done now:)

Abifae said...

lol. I couldn't agree more! I used the analogy of curing left handed people by giving them the tools to survive in a right handed world last weekend. They are still left handed!

But to answer your question, all of them were in childhood education and all of them caught me out within one day of working together. Usually within the first hour. Those who have worked with adult autistics have caught me out in minutes. Those who have children of their own who are autistic have caught me out in minutes. Those with more distant family or neighbors who were autistic usually caught on within a few days.

I am hoping that once the recently diagnosed children hit adulthood, people will realize help is needed for adult autistics too!