Autism: A Gift or Setback?
by Raquel Co
Today one in one hundred children are diagnosed with autism. What is autism? Is it a disability or a gift? According to Wikipedia autism is “a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication and by restricted and repetitive behavior” (Wikipedia.com). Wikipedia also says that “Autism affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their synapse connect and organize; how this occurs is not well understood” (Wikipedia.com). However, there’s another definition on autism that isn’t as negative as this. Eileen Correa, a mother to an autistic son, says that “autism is something that causes challenges with understanding a concept, but after that concept is learned it is picked up very fast”. After reading what was hard to say the only word that stood out was repetition. After observing people with autism it has come to my understanding that after a concept is locked into their memory that concept can be executed very well and strong. It all comes from repetition, repeating the same thing over and over. When autism was unknown, many people just took these children to be stupid; however they are really smart and bright when given the chance to shine. Today it is very common and there are many foundations to help families dealing with autism. Although it takes people with autism longer to grasp something they somehow manage to execute it better than “normal” children. We have had many great people of our time with tremendous talents be diagnosed with autism. Despite the disability they had they still managed to overcome lots of obstacles and develop such talents or skills. People with autism tend to be so much smarter in a way than what we call “normal” people, they repeat subjects over and over that develop certain strength, these talented children can be such more if give the chance.
With the many researchers conducted on children with autism there are two sides. Some doctors such as Dr. Laurent Mottron believe that autistic children have advantages. In summer of 2010 UCLA had conducted a research study on autism, they had advertised that anyone with autism to come and bring their family. Eileen Correa volunteered her family and son who has autism, and at the time was twelve. All day they took blood samples from each of the four family members. They asked questions about the boy such as “how does he react when you say No?” and “What happens when he’s facing a problem? How does he react?” Then they had the boy do such activities as playing a game, watching a movie, going outside and so on. This was done so they could study his reactions, habits and what was taking place in his brain. After doing this the family had discovered that the DNA in the son’s blood was different compared to the sister’s, even though they had both parts of the parents DNA structure inside there were some differences that were unexplainable. They had also concluded that they boy David Correa seemed “normal” and didn’t have very much problems doing most of the activities.
In Dr. Laurent Mottron’s research he said that in the brain scans there is successful brain organization (Rettner). Those diagnosed have these following challenges: repeating things, touching a certain color or texture, having multiple sounds go on (i.e the water running, music playing and someone talking), foods touching, using soap, remembering basic necessities (i.e washing their hair, brushing teeth or using the restroom), tying two concepts together (i.e multitasking), communication with a family member or even a stranger, having someone look at them, and people using a joke or sarcasm, the list goes on, but these are some of the challenges that David Correa has faced and overcome. Mottron also said that “people with autism can make significant contributions to society in the right environment, I have several people with autism who work in my lab, one researcher in particular can remember information they read weeks ago” (Rettner). Even though it is found that ”One out of ten autistics cannot speak, nine out of ten have no regular job and four out of five autism adults are still dependent on their parents”, research has also concluded that, “people with autism often outperform others in auditory and visual tasks, and also do better on non-verbal tests of intelligence” (Rettner). Then there are others that believe that it’s just a disability and a cure needs to be found.
In Rochester, New York there was a boy in his last year of high school who was a student helper to the basketball team. On the last game his coach said he could suit up and play in the last varsity game. This boy Jason McElwain, who is diagnosed with serve autism had set a new school record. When it was his time to go in he took a shot and missed, but the next time he scored a three-pointer shot and later five more three-pointer shots, which was a new school record. Albert Einstein, he developed the theory of general relativity and is known as the father of physics was diagnosed with case of autism. Einstein made many discoveries and also won the noble peace prize. David Correa was diagnosed with autism at the age of two and was told that he would never talk, drive, communicated and do normal activities such as riding a bike. Today at the age of four-teen he can have a full conversation with a stranger, is in five non-special education classes out of the seven he takes, as freshman got the drum major role at his high school, and is currently looking for a job and colleges to attend after graduation. For all three of these men they overcame the odds, they did what everyone said they couldn’t. Even though they still had their daily struggles of life and dealing with problems they did extraordinary things despite what science had told them. There’s a famous saying, “what may seem impossible is always possible” and in this case it seems to be true. In research done children with disabilities seem to execute a skill a lot better, the repetition that kicks in helps them to develop a skill (Andrews, Lupart J. etal). It is also known in research that when gifted students with disabilities are put with regular students doing the same skill the student with the disability seems to do a whole a lot better than a regular student (Andrews, Lupart J. etal). Einstein did math over and over he became so good at it that he made discoveries, David practiced an instrument over and over that he became so good he can read music for anything. Having repetition in the brain doesn’t hurt, all it does it make it better for one to develop something great. With autism people having the repetition function it allows them to become a master at whatever skill they tackle. Andrew says that “the future is decidedly brighter with a growing talent in a special needs child” (Andrews, Lupart J. etal). In some ways autism people are smarter than a regular person, but they still have their challenges and can overcome anything they set their mind to, it just takes them a little longer.
With the learned knowledge and experience with autism people that have autism develop a skill and execute it a whole lot better than a normal person all they need is guidance into the right direction to have a great future. After doing research I learned that the reason why they develop a skill so well is because inside their brain is a repetition function. This repetition function allows them to have to repeat something over and over until they get it right or perfect. Autistic people not only have a repetition function they also have an incredible memory source. Their memory source allows them to memorize things that they may glance at or read weeks before and have full knowledge of what they looked at. If all these special functions were applied in the correct area like Dr. Mottron had stated we can find something for them to do and have a chance at having a normal life. If not only autism children were given attention and help to develop a skill but all special needs children imagine how well we could help them succeed to beat the odds set and told against them. All it takes is recognition that what they have isn’t a disability or set back, but something great, powerful and special that makes them truly unique and different from everyone else in this world.