Autism and its Blues

Autism is most complex and often misunderstood. Anumita, a special needs mother, with two children diagnosed under the spectrum of autism, shares her experiences on the World Autism Awareness Day. Life taught her more.

The second day of April is dedicated to the awareness of autism. It showed on the calendar of my cell phone. Various friends on different social sites have shown their solidarity by sporting the colour of the day, blue. I went through most of them and liked them, but in my heart a voice kept questioning. Do we really know what autism is?

Awareness comes with education or when someone shares his/her experiences. The dissemination of information and knowledge is central to awareness. I am not certain of many other socio-medical problems, which have specific awareness days. I guess those are there too.

I am a mother of two children, who have been diagnosed under the spectrum of autism. This makes me feel strongly about this issue. I would like to share a slice of my life of what living with autism is.

I am not doctor or psychiatrist. I am a mother with two children in the spectrum. I learnt it through reading and living with them each day. So what I am sharing is not academic. It’s not meant for seminars. I am not a doctor. I am sure you all will allow me a white margin. For I speak from experience. These are some of the lessons that life taught me, albeit the hard way.

The dictionary defines it as a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterised by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts. But to tell you the truth, it is way more than just a mental condition. To define it would not be that easy and living it is a different world of its own.

Autism is not a disease that has symptoms, and which can be cured by medication alone. It is how an individual is wired that makes him/her different. Today, with the advance of medical science and the use of different techniques, many such individuals are leading a near ‘normal’ life. It takes a lot of adjustments and a bit of understanding from the rest of the world.

The brain of a person has two hemispheres. The left side of the brain controls the right side of the body. It is the logical side of the brain. It computes and analyses. The right half of the brain controls the left side of the body. It is the creative side and has the power to invent, perform and works on matters of arts. So, when we use our left hand, the right side of the brain is working and when we use our right eye the left side of the brain kicks in. The nose is the exception. The sense of smell works with its own corresponding sides of brain. Now, with the hemispheres being apart, how do we function in coordination?

All individual functions on three basic acts. First, is to comprehend or understand the subject, then is to store it, and finally, to be able to retrieve it when required. Both hemispheres of the brain are connected with nerves and neurons. It is like highways or a complex design of bridges and overpasses. As an individual grows up, the neurons connect and the passage of information becomes permanent. The capacity to comprehend, save and retrieve information becomes complete.

For an autistic individual these highways do not form the way it is meant to be. Those with physical disabilities, have more complex issues attached to it. But for individuals with learning disability, like Apergers (which in a broader sense is autism), these highways are half constructed. This causes information not to be comprehended, stored, or retrieved.

Then that individual has incomplete thoughts, which would seem nonsense to most of us. It is not their fault that they are talking off topic; it’s just that their brain has not processed it the way it should. As autism has a huge umbrella and is coloured with innumerable hues, it would be impossible to discuss it all in one go.

Today, on the World Autism Awareness Day, let us all pause and give it a little thought. May we understand our fellow individual and not label him or her just because he or she is different. May we be a little more humane!

Pix from Net

Anumita C. Roy

Anumita C. Roy

Anumita Chatterjee Roy is an artist at heart. She has an eye for the unusual. Her naturescapes make her the quintessential Romantic. She paints, is passionate about photography, creates word images in her verses and loves to write. She cooks delicacies and is a foodie. Born in India, she was brought up in several countries. These strengthened the global citizen in her. She now lives in the Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and two sons.
Anumita C. Roy