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
“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?