Sound Off: It’s crucial to understand, not underestimate those with autism

By Madeline Mays

Have you ever seen a person with autism? Better question, do you know the warning signs of autism? Maybe a little kid throwing a tantrum in public. Or a kid who isn’t great at eye contact. Do you think that’s a bad thing to have?

The Mass General for Children states, “Autism spectrum disorder now affects 1 in 68 children.” All the more reason society should be learning and being aware of this disorder. Society underestimates people with autism. But really, ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) isn’t as bad as everyone makes it.

Autism is “a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication,” according to Autism Speaks.

From my own experience, I couldn’t have asked for a better brother. He is 10, and smart, sweet, caring and has such an amazing memory. My bro had to help ME on a project I was doing on the solar system. He memorized the planets and I have not. I still haven’t.

Sometimes it is obvious that a child may have ASD, but there are other situations that some people never know they are on the spectrum. My parents knew my brother had autism when he wasn’t great with eye contact and had speech delay. He was diagnosed at the age of 3.

They can be very smart, but here’s the real thing. Many people believe that ASD is some sort of disability. Something that hurts them in having a chance of being successful, or making it on their own in life. But that’s wrong. Autistic people just see the world in a different way. They are so creative, and maybe that’s the reason why they do some things differently than others. That doesn’t make it bad; it makes it unique.

However, there are still many complications. According to the National Library of Medicine, ASD has “psychological risks like elevated parental stress, social risks like stigmatization, and relational difficulties in the parent-child relationship.” Although it’s true, there are ways to make it easier for those with autism.

A mom with a kid with autism wrote in The New York Times, “early intervention can make a huge difference in the development of children with autism.”

My brother received early speech, occupational, and ABA therapy, also IEP therapy in school. He is very healthy and is doing great. There are questions I ask myself, such as “Who will take care of him when I’m gone?” or “Will he be able to live an independent life?” But I trust that whatever happens, it happens for a reason.

Madeline Mays is a student at North Whidbey Middle School.