23 July 2018 – Altogether Autism Professional Expert Group member and clinical psychologist Jenny Gibbs is “very excited” about this latest journal.
IN MY 25 years work as a psychologist I have met many people with autism.
I am constantly amazed by both the commonalities and the differences in the experience of autism both for the person themselves and for those who live with and love them.
Personally I think the term autism is problematic because it implies that autism is one entity.
I think that many of the debates and misunderstandings that arise within the community of people that are involved with autism – autistic people, their families and the professionals who work in the field – arise because without necessarily realising it we are talking about different entities.
I personally prefer to think of “The Autisms” as a reminder that the differences are important and need to be made explicit to help with understanding and to prevent us talking past each other.
One of the great things about working in one place for a long time is that I have been fortunate enough to follow people I met as preschool children into their adult lives.
We know that autism looks different at different ages and stages. We also know that it can be quite hard to predict how a pre-schooler with a new diagnosis of autism will be affected in their later life (although we know that factors such as the child’s intellectual ability and their family functioning are important predictors).
For families it is a journey into the unknown and their attempts to make their child “normal” are understandable.
Some people’s lives have been limited by the conditions that can accompany autism, such as intellectual disabilities, communication challenges and mental illness.
For others, their autism has been a source of exceptional talent and ability which has made a difference to society.
The majority of autistics however, like the majority of the human race, are somewhere in the middle, leading ordinary lives with all the joy and despair and hope and challenge that come with being alive, with the additional challenges that come with being a minority group in society.
This journal describes some of those wonderful ordinary and extraordinary lives for people with one of the autisms and some initiatives that aim to enhance their wellbeing.