Mod­ern day X-Men

APRIL IS NATIONAL AUTISM AWARE­NESS MONTH WITH WORLD AUTISM AWARE­NESS DAY ON APRIL 2 (YOU MIGHT EVEN NO­TICE SOME LO­CAL ICONIC BUILD­INGS BATHED IN BLUE LIGHT AS A GLOBAL INI­TIA­TIVE TO RAISE AWARE­NESS?). IN A TIMELY AR­TI­CLE, PSY­CHOL­O­GIST AND BE­HAVIOURAL THER

Haven Magazine - - Upfront - Words: Grace Sweeney

“Mu­ta­tion. It is the key to our evo­lu­tion. It is how we have evolved from a sin­gle-cell or­gan­ism into the dom­i­nant species on the planet. This process is slow, nor­mally tak­ing thou­sands and thou­sands of years. But ev­ery few mil­len­nia evo­lu­tion leaps forward.” - Pro­fes­sor Charles Xavier, X-Men Stan Lee’s X-Men have been around since 1963. The Mar­vel Comics su­per­heros are a sub­species of hu­mans who are born with su­per­hu­man abil­i­ties. We all know their names – Wolver­ine, Storm, Jean Frey, Ar­changel, Beast, Cy­clops and Ice­man. They fight for peace and equal­ity. Many are united as one, em­pow­ered. Many are alone, iso­lated from those around them. They are uni­ver­sal. They are di­verse. They are born great. Per­haps our X-Men have been around a long time too, but have gone un­no­ticed. They too are uni­ver­sal. They too are di­verse. They too are born great. And, no longer are they hid­den. They are those be­ing di­ag­nosed with autism spec­trum dis­or­der (ASD). What do we know about autism? Un­like Lee’s X-Men, autism is con­sid­ered a neu­rode­vel­op­men­tal dis­or­der typ­i­cally di­ag­nosed in early child­hood. Autism most likely has a ge­netic ori­gin and is also in­creas­ing in fre­quency at a rate that is greater than can sim­ply be ex­plained away by bet­ter de­tec­tion and di­ag­no­sis. In the pro­fes­sional lit­er­a­ture, there are dozens of the­o­ries as to why this is hap­pen­ing – the­o­ries that spread into main­stream me­dia quicker now than ever be­fore. Think diet and vac­cines, pes­ti­cides and GMOs, elec­tro­mag­netic ex­po­sure and Wi-Fi sig­nals, the list goes on. Be­fore we get car­ried away, the the­ory I find most in­trigu­ing is that peo­ple with autism have al­ways been around, but that in this age of science and tech­nol­ogy, they are well suited to thrive. Evo­lu­tion is sim­ply tak­ing its course. The life of a per­son with autism last cen­tury prob­a­bly in­volved an ob­ses­sive in­ter­est in know­ing the se­rial num­bers of steam en­gines – hardly a use­ful sur­vival skill. How­ever, that same ob­ses­sive in­ter­est when ap­plied to law, stock­broking, en­gi­neer­ing, medicine or computer pro­gram­ming in to­day’s world would cer­tainly stand out. What if autism is sim­ply the first glimpse of what all hu­mans will look like a cen­tury from now? What if they are our mod­ern day X-Men? It sounds great, doesn’t it? But so rarely are those with autism seen this way. When a child is di­ag­nosed with ASD, all dis­cus­sions and de­ci­sions are un­for­tu­nately based on deficits alone. Does your child have dif­fi­cul­ties in so­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tion and in­ter­ac­tions? Does your child have re­stricted, repet­i­tive pat­terns of be­hav­iour or in­ter­ests? Is your child’s abil­ity to func­tion in so­ci­ety im­paired?

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