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Autism Spectrum — A Kaleidoscope That Needs No Censoring

“Autism is one word trying to express millions of stories. Offer support, not judgment.”

When one describes autism as a spectrum, that’s no understatement. Think of when you look through a kaleidoscope and see a continually changing pattern of shapes and colors. I was reminded of that at a recent local meetup with my daughter, where there were three autistic individuals, all of whom were verbal with varying levels of communication and functioning levels. One of them, a bright young man with the accustomed teenaged hankering for cute girls, is quite the writer and attends a regular NYC public high school with an IEP program. Another is an amazing artist with an appetite for both the Lord and girls, aspirations to get married, a job and his own apartment. The third, surfs, rides a bike and even attends sleep-away summer camp. Now juxtapose them to my 13-year-old nonverbal daughter, who has no expressed interest in interacting with her peers, far less boys; attends a special-needs private school in an eight-to-one (eight students to one teacher) and three paraprofessionals classroom; is extremely athletic on all board sports, sans surfing; she would not put her big toe on a surfboard, literally; and needs to be constantly monitored because in autism lingo, is a “runner.” So, sleep away camp? A bewildering thought. 

However, should public events be censored when it comes to the varying levels of autism? For example, think of how a movie is rated R versus PG-13. So, if Rockaway Beach Autism Families is hosting an event, should it state, “Not appropriate for severely autistic individuals?”

According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) latest edition, there are three levels of ASD—level 1, level 2, or level 3, indicating the extent to which autism impacts an individual’s ability to communicate and take care of themselves. According to this categorization, level 3 is possessing little to no communication skills, rarely initiating social interaction and requiring a higher level of support with daily living.

Increasingly in society today, facets of everyday life are being censored. Tsk, tsk—cancel culture? I’m of the school of thought that caregivers and autistic individuals should make the executive decision as to whether an event or environment would be uncomfortable or stressful for them. We expose our daughter to a plethora of activities because we won’t know unless we try. My humble advice is just strive to be intuitive to the level of support both you and your autistic loved one’s needs. 

As stated in the quote at the beginning of this column, individuals with autism need support, not judgment—and certainly, not censorship. I would feel slighted if I saw a post about an event that stated: “Not appropriate for severely autistic individuals.” Give us—caregivers and autistic individuals alike—the opportunity to use our powers of choice, reason and intuition. 

Speaking about events, join Rockaway Beach Autism Families at our 2nd Annual End-of-Summer Barbecue Fundraiser/Social on Sunday, August 28, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Knights of Columbus (333 Beach 90th Street). In addition to delish food at just $15 a box, there will be arts and crafts, a sensory table, games (including a water dunk!), music, plus a back-to-school giveaway! For more info, including how to donate to RBAF’s back-to-school drive, email: kami@rockawaybeachautismfamilies.org or visit Rockaway Beach Autism Families on Facebook/Instagram.

Join RBAF in “Turning the tide for the autism community, one wave at a time.”

 By Kami-Leigh Agard

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