Autism was not a disorder that was well researched or studied until the 80s. No one really knows what autism was, let alone the cause. My brother was born in 1966 and he looked no difference from the rest of us. He was cute just like any other child; he had a well developed physical body; but he had something that not everyone has: a smile that melts hearts. He was a happy child, laughing all the time.
Like the rest of us, he went to kinder and played well with other kids. He loved watching television and listening to music. But he didn’t talk. My parents kept waiting day after day; month after month and year after year, taking the words from the doctors. The medical team found It very hard to label my brother with a disorder, the most they came up with was speech delayed.
Days, months, years passed by, my brother was six or seven years old by then, still no sign of speech. By then he had been out of school for a few years. No one knew what to do. He kept growing and he kept retreating to his own world. He played by himself, he could spend all day standing at the balcony looking out without a sound.
Still, no one knew what to do……..
There are many ways we can educate ourselves about Autism, watch this video about Richard and Jaco: Richard and Jaco: Life with Autism
My brother never went to any formal schooling. Back then, there were no such thing as inclusive education or special needs schools catered for children with autism. And because he was never properly diagnosed, he was not given any treatments or interventions.
Without proper treatments, his condition worsen as years went by. He could not express himself through words so he got frustrated when he could not get what he wanted. So when he wanted to draw attentions, he would throw things out the window. When he wanted to express his happiness, he would laugh so loud that we couldn’t stop him until he choked on his own saliva. When he was angry, he would bite his hand so hard that he bled. When he was sad, he would stand at the balcony all day long without a sound.
It was only when I studied autism spectrum disorder in university (Master in Special Needs) did I then fully realized the extends of the severity of my brother’s condition.
On the spectrum, autism can range from low functioning to high functioning; those with the least severe problems can learn to communicate effectively, keep jobs and even be able to live independently. But on the other side of the spectrum are those with severe autism who may continue to struggle with speech, learning, and communication skills into adulthood.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological condition with the onset at birth and it is a lifelong developmental condition that affects how they behave and learn as well as interact with the world around them.
Although my brother was at the extreme end of the spectrum but I strongly believe that if he was given treatments or interventions at the time, his condition could had been helped or improved.