June 21, 2012

Louis Theroux on autism: A very different sort of school

Full story: BBC

With autism diagnoses rising more and more parents are plunged into a battle to understand the condition and find their child the right treatment, writes Louis Theroux.

Joey Morales-Ward is a 13-year-old kid who lives in suburban New Jersey. He likes playing on his computer, making books that he illustrates himself, and drawing in coloured chalk on his parents' front drive.

Joey also has violent tantrums on a daily basis, which often involve him hitting himself, punching holes in the walls all through the house, and assaulting his mother, leaving her bruised and shaken.

Joey has been diagnosed with autism.

People with autism vary widely in terms of their symptoms. Some are above average intellectually, though many are below average and struggle in mainstream schools.

Commonly, people on the autistic spectrum have trouble with social interaction - using speech, recognising emotions (their own and other people's), body language. They also often have repetitive behaviours and routines and can appear locked in their own worlds.

For reasons that aren't fully understood, diagnosis rates for autism have gone steadily upward in America in recent years. New Jersey is at the forefront of the trend. Latest figures put the autism rates among boys in New Jersey at one in 29 (rates for girls tend to be much lower).

Despite its increasing levels of diagnosis, autism is still poorly understood. Indeed, it is not clear if the real rates of autism are climbing. Some say there are more cases due to improved detection, or, some believe, an overly expanded set of criteria.

In the popular mind, the condition is forever linked to the Dustin Hoffman character in Rain Man, an autistic savant whose idiosyncratic behaviour - obsessive routines, strange vocal mannerisms - was offset by a host of "savant" abilities. He could memorise a phone book and beat the casinos in Las Vegas.

In fact, savant abilities are rare among those with autism.

For my part, my interest in the condition stemmed from an interest in the unique nature of the relationship between parents and their diagnosed kids.
Parents of autistic children can find it a struggle to cope

Raising a child on the autistic spectrum presents a very demanding, though often rewarding, set of challenges.

As a father of two young boys, who are in psychiatric parlance "neuro-typical", I know first-hand how hard it can be when your four-year-old refuses to eat his vegetables or goes through weird phases of waking every few hours; the tantrums over certain clothes and the squabbles over who was playing with what first.

But raising a child with autism puts my stresses in the shade... READ MORE >>

No comments:

Post a Comment