I have spent a lot of time with autism, and what I know for sure is that I don’t know autism. I mean, I know the stereotype, but ALL the kids that I have seen on the spectrum, are so uniquely different, that I can clearly say that nobody really “knows” autism. When I talk to teachers of “typical” kids, they always say that no two kids are alike in their class. Then why are people so quick to judge an autistic kid and drop them all in the same bucket? The fact is, you can’t.
What we do know about autism, is that we don’t know what causes it. But, we also know that it’s a “multi-faceted disease”, or some fancy term like that. In other words, there’s a LOT of different things converging at one time, which manifest themselves into “autistic behaviors”.
The fact is, we all have what I call “red flags”: challenges we face when we are a kid or even all throughout our adult lives. Typically we have 2 or 3 and the doctor tells our parents, “don’t worry, they’ll grow through it…” Whether this be dyslexia, hearing issues, bi-polar, ADHD, OCD, sensory, eating issues, etc., the list goes on and on. Our bodies, being amazing machines at adaptation, adjust and find coping mechanisms that allow us to grow through or work with these red flags. Many of us use our own little quirks as a strength, once we understand and except our challenges (I’m clearly ADHD). But, autistic kids, they are just slightly different, they happen to have a few more “red flags”, and when their body can’t easily adapt to all these challenges, they combine to exhibit “autistic behaviors”.
What now becomes the new challenge is for the parents to find out what these “red flags” are and start working on them. It’s very hard at first, but once you start to identify and conquer these challenges, things start snowballing back together for your kid. This doesn’t just happen overnight, it takes years, but it can happen and may take ALOT of research, hard work, dedication, and deduction.
The really good news about finding these solutions for your child, is that, while you are “healing” one of these red flags, your child is adapting to their challenges on the inside, unbeknownst to you. It’s really cool, actually. As you fill their gap, they have built another strength, dare I say, a “super hero skill”. That’s the next trick, to find that newly created talent, AND FEED IT! Because they will be great….no, a genius in this area! And don’t think I’m the only one that thinks this is how a genius is created, listen to Barry Panter, a retired psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, when talking about people who are “wired” differently, “the neurosynaptic and neurochemical pathways in their brains may be different than most brains, and it may be this that contributes greatly to creativity and their genius” (quoted from USA Today article, “Tortured genius” by Maria Puente).
So, how is this all related to depression? Well, ever since Robin Williams passed away, I’ve been noodling this idea, because what I kept hearing from the “doctors” is that they don’t know exactly what causes depression and that it is typically manifested over years and due to several different causes….Several. Different. Causes. That’s it. That’s the connection.
At this point, this is more of an observation than anything else. But, there are two things I do know, many people on the autism spectrum are depressed and if you have one of these challenges, do something about it, because you don’t know what it will combine with down the road and manifest into. Most people who get help turn out stronger and better than before!