Not just one, but two (ie both) of my nephews have been diagnosed with Austism Spectrum Disorder – one has is more mildly than the other. I think I might have mentioned this in a previous post. When you’re a long way from your family and they're coping with a big thing like this you feel kind of useless. I have no idea what life is like for them on a day to day basis, I have no idea whether this brings my brother and his partner to tears on occasion, and when I talk to him, the kids are around (his and mine), so it’s not appropriate to dwell on things like that.
I’ve been meaning to read up more on the topic for a while. I did a few web searches a while ago, but much of what is on the internet is either very basic introductions to the topic, or forums for parents of autistic kids (who would already have a lot of knowledge). I chatted to my brother over the internet the other weekend, and saw him interacting with his son, and could see that he was learning how to manage certain behaviours. It was so good to see. And given their first 2 children are the ones with ASD’s, they compare notes with me and my children, as they are realising they don’t really know what normal is.
So I went and found myself a book on the weekend. I’m really glad I did, although it has sent me on a mini emotional rollercoaster. Nothing compared to what my brother has gone through, I’m sure, but it still upsetting.
Autism and related disorders like Aspergers are relatively new to the world of Psychology and Psychiatry. It was first described, with a few misconceptions, in the 1940’s, with big leaps in understanding made in the 1970’s & 80’s, but there is still much to be learned. Verbal communication is a big challenge for kids with ASD – they don’t read faces well, often don’t pick up social cues and can’t really see when they’ve upset someone. At first I heard that someone with autism can lead an almost normal life, but I am beginning to understand that there may not be a great chance of that for my nephews. We’ll have to see how things develop as they grow older, of course. See how they manage school and life outside school.
There is still a lot to be learned, especially about what causes ASD’s. There seems to be some level of heritability with the condition – that is, siblings have a higher chance of getting it where there is already a diagnosed case in the family. This has led me to think about my family – has this sprung up before? And me? For a fleeting moment I dwelt upon times when I’ve missed critical social cues. But I know I don’t have this problem, nor does anyone else in my immediate family. Extended family? Not sure. Sister-in-law’s family? Even less sure. And then, is there any point in knowing this? Anyway, one of the theories is that people who develop ASD may be of the personality type that is prone to social difficulties, but ASD is brought on due to difficulties in early life, possibly even in utero. This fits with what we know about my nephews somewhat.
So, I am yet to read the chapters in my book about treatments, interventions, management, and more in depth descriptions of how someone with autism functions. This is far more practical to know about as a family member… Hoping to become a fount of knowledge, enough to bore my next dinner party with!