Since the diagnosis I have researched autism because my only 'knowledge' of autism came from two films, Rain Man (1988) and Mercury Rising (1998). Although the films did give an insight into some of the difficulties of those with autism, it was just a keyhole view. My doubts about my own autism stem from the fact I found out autism is genetic, meaning someone in my family had it before me. This is actually quite possible.
My mother had some 'eccentric' ways. She told me quite openly that as a baby I rarely cried and it must have felt to her like she was missing out on nurturing. Consequently she used to pinch me to make me cry, just so she could nurse and soothe me (small wonder I'm so bloody confused). Her father, my grandfather, spent his last years in an asylum but it was generally attributed to his experiences as a POW during WWII. These peculiarities might indicate a genetic anomaly but nothing is concrete.
When I was a kid conditions like ADHD, ADD, Asperger's and indeed ASD and TBI were unknown. PTSD was simply known as 'shell-shock' (or cowardice if you went back even further). Nowadays it seems that every man and his dog has some kind of disorder. Back in the day our parents tried to beat the behavioural problems out of us, thankfully those days are long gone but I do wonder if we have gone from one extreme to the other.
It would be wrong to blame the health service, education or even parents for failing my ilk because of the lack of knowledge on such things and kids of my time were 'to be seen and not heard. We were not allowed to be weak or complain. When I left school I stopped going to see specialists whom I felt did nothing. I was only seeing an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist who was more concerned with my headaches, tinnitus and impaired hearing than any behavioural problems.
As a result I slipped through the net simply because I refused to accept I was damaged. My childhood was spent in self-inflicted isolation due to an inability to express my feelings in a manner others didn't find strange. The few friends I had called me crazy and I thought they were joking although I knew I was 'eccentric' and my thought process was different to theirs, but I didn't feel crazy. I tried ti hide my condition in a futile attempt to 'fit in' and became quite good at it. Most people I met never knew about the problems I faced on a daily basis.
However with my advancing years and David Cameron lying through his teeth about the government addressing mental health issues, I believed it was time to do things properly. There was a huge campaign to remove the stigma associated with such conditions but it didn't work. In my experience, coming out about my condition was the worst thing I hadn't slept properly for decades and thought somewhat foolishly I could be cured of the headaches, the tinnitus, the nightmares and ultimately the loneliness.
I'm rambling again (another consequence of my condition), this isn't about me this is about autism. The movies I mentioned above did little to indicate how an autistic person thought or felt. In my ignorance I was left with the impression the characters were damaged individuals with little coherent thought - and some quite extraordinary abilities. This is simply not true. I drew comparisons with my own condition and began to understand, and it made me wonder if others were as ignorant as me.
I now see autism as a kind of protective shell and inside is a person with feelings and emotions just the same as anyone else. Because they cannot communicate properly doesn't mean they cannot think or that they lack awareness. I really do not know enough to be able to comment with authority on the matter but the clip below raises all sorts of questions in my mind. A young kid seeing his favourite band Coldplay and enjoying the experience with his father is suddenly reduced to tears when his favourite song 'Fix You' is played. Did he understand the words 'fix you' (I believe Spanish is his native tongue) and the desire to be 'fixed' stirred up such emotions?
I cannot watch the clip without welling up and I feel no shame in that. If it doesn't move you, there is something seriously wrong with you.
More needs to be done to raise awareness about Autism and the other conditions mentioned here. People need to be educated and the government needs to fulfil its promises. Maybe then humanity can regain a little compassion and we can move forward as a species.