I was sitting in a meeting the other day and talking with an individual that was extremely of being involved in the closing down of the “institutions” in Ontario that left so many low functioning autistics without a place to stay when their own families could no longer take care of them.
What distressed me the most about the conversation is that this person did not realize how vital these institutions were even though they were not the best possible option.
I personally am a fan of inclusion however, I also feel it is not always the best case solution for every child.
See the problem that arises is that each individual with autism is distinctly different, each program for each autistic child needs to be developed specifically with that child in mind and not a cardboard cut out that is the same for everyone.
What confuses people is one basic problem. Psychiatric classifications terms a very wide range of people as autistic. This includes people like Albert Einstein and Ari Ne’eman as well as those like Brian Nevin who (at the age of 20) was unable to even realize that if he only unbuckled his seat belt and got out of the van he would not die from the intense heat, or the 50 year old non verbal woman in Long Island who was repeatedly beaten and abused by staff at the group home she was staying in.
People in general see the Einstein’s and Ne’eman’s and forget the Nevin’s actually exist.
This is like using the word Cancer with out differentiation between breast, prostate, bone, leukemia etc. or using the word Religious without the differentiation between Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, Wiccan, or Satanic. All are vastly different and all have their own issues, but when it comes to Autism there has been a serious attempt to constantly lump all Autistics into the Einstein and Ne’eman category without realizing that they are by far the lowest percentage of autism patients in the world.
The larger part of Autistic patients can likely function on their own but they do have behavioural issues that do need to be monitored constantly as well as many also have a lower intelligence then many of the “normal” individuals.
While we are fortunate that our son can never be classified as being of low intelligence he does have issues that make him on the rougher end of the scale. He has the behavioural issues (they are improving but they will never disappear completely), he has the flight issues which must constantly be a concern and he is essentially non-verbal, he does have some words and his vocabulary is growing but those who do not know him would have extreme difficulties understanding him.
The problem is that when these well meaning people shut down the institutions saying they were inhumane what they did was dump a lot of people onto the street that had little to no concept of how to function in society and a society (and more importantly a police force) that had absolutely no concept of how to identify them or how to effectively deal with them so that they did not become a statistic.
What is not generally understood about Autism is that one of the foremost identifiers is the lack of understanding of social behaviours. They don’t generally present the correct social response to a situation. They are not likely to understand that a belligerent police officer is not a physical threat but would instead consider it a valid threat and this has killed and jailed more then one individual. Part of this is because the police have not been trained to understand the various mental illnesses and how to recognize them but also because the individual does not have the ability to tell the difference.
We do need to change how we look at autism because without changing how we look at autism we are going to be in a serious situation where the stress of getting care for our children after we die is going to kill us faster and put them in a dangerous situation that much faster.
Autism needs to be broken down into categories and treated like the various levels of illness it actually is and facilities need to be developed so that when our children grow up they have the level of care they require. The level of care needs to be tailored to each individual and not to a specific one size fits all program that benefits no one.