Is a diagnosis of Autism helpful?

A reason and explanation

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A diagnosis of autism can help a child to feel as though they have a reason and explanation for certain behaviours they may have, as well as helping their parents and possibly educators to have a better grasp of how to engage the said child. Many people on the spectrum are high functioning and are affected minimally by their diagnosis of autism, contrasting greatly to those highly impaired by their position on the autism spectrum. In order to support a child with autism, many people feel as though they have to be certain that it is autism that they are confronted with, to help them to support the child adequately. It is not uncommon for those with high functioning autism to remain un-diagnosed until much later life, and it has been previously reported by individuals in this situation that late diagnosis was a cause of much unwarranted trauma during childhood, evident in difficulties making friends or claims by teachers of difficulty to focus which has been mistook as laziness in producing work or effort.

Diagnosis of intellectual impairments would be seen by Szasz as most helpful during situations where ‘problems in living’ have begun to exceed normal levels. Problems for those with autism may include frustrations caused by an inability to understand their wrongdoing in emotional situations, struggles in school with certain teaching environments or fellow classmates, or an accidental disregard for others caused by a reduced understanding in something referred to as ‘theory of mind’. Though autism is not a ‘disease’, it does impair those diagnosed by it in ways such as empathy, that is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Struggling to see how somebody other than themselves could be affected by something, or difficulty to see something from someone else’s point of view, is not seen as ‘normal’ by our modern-day society. It highlights that people with reduced theory of mind are less effective at understanding other people’s perspectives and struggles in life.

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A diagnosis of autism may make it easier for the child to take criticism for their reduced theory of mind, as they have an explanation as to why they are in this position. However, it can be difficult for children diagnosed as autistic to improve their theory of mind, which may be welcomed with frustration. Adults diagnosed with autism may meet a revelation and greater understanding as to why they have struggled previously with understanding others, but it also may be difficult to hear, as many adults diagnosed with autism then feel resentment towards their past for not knowing how to help themselves ( or example extra support in learning theory of mind situations).

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Teachers who have experience with children who have an autism diagnosis can be crucial in helping a child once they have been diagnosed with autism. Labels can be difficult for anyone to take on, especially children, but with the help of teachers who can nurture children to focus on their strengths, a diagnosis of autism can have minimal effect on the child. Children diagnosed with autism can be very focussed and precise, characteristics that can be infinitely useful in certain circumstances. They may also have specific interests, which allow them to become very specialised in certain areas, whether that be an interest in train models, or a certain culture that they find particularly inspiring to learn about. Commitment to specific hobbies or interests gives focus and dedication to children diagnosed with autism, without their ‘obsession’ being seen as strange, as it becomes another element of their autism diagnosis.

The specific interests of children diagnosed with autism has the capability to become a career for many individuals, though a lack of autism diagnosis would not restrict this, therefore it is less of an opportunity for which to argue that an autism diagnosis can be seen as helpful.

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Ultimately, diagnosis of autism can leave individuals with a sense of relief as an explanation for certain behaviours or struggles in their lives. However, labels can be difficult to manage, especially for small children, which is something to consider before a parent offers their child the explanation of difference created by autism between them and neurotypical children.

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