The amount of information on the subject of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) has increased exponentially in the past decade. The concept of information overload is more relevant these days than ever before.
From books, to DVDs, professional services, therapy products, treatment programs, websites dedicated to the topic, personal stories from individuals on the spectrum and from those who live with people on the spectrum, organizations, blogs, conferences, webinars, newsletters, magazines, support groups, and more… It is easy to see how people may be overwhelmed with all the information.
If the various venues for obtaining information are not enough to overwhelm you, how about looking at the various contexts in which information is available? There’s research settings, clinical programs and therapy, educational and home applications. Even within some of these contexts are subcultures. Researchers who study genetics are not the same as those that study the brain or gut. Therapy programs include different orientations ranging from those that are heavily behaviorally based to those that focus more on naturalistic approaches. Some information translates easily between these contexts, while other information does not.
For example, the TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication related handicapped Children) program from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, brought the idea of daily schedules into general use. Its applicability was easily adapted to a number of different contexts such as public school programs, specialized classrooms, homes, clinics and therapy rooms.
Other things that we learn in one context, are not immediately applicable in other contexts. For example, research about some of the causes of autism such as the connectivity theories are interesting and may lead to practical applications in the future, but have no immediate impact on our day-to-day lives. Yet, the new research on identifying what children are likely to focus on spontaneously (geometric shapes versus people), may lead parents and professionals to identify those children who may benefit from early interventions.
Beyond the various venues for obtaining information and the specific contexts in which information is available, there is also a plethora of topics or areas of interest in ASD including but not limited to: Communication, behavior, sensory issues, biomedical issues, nutrition and special diets, supplements, enzymes, proteins, gut issues, genetics, brain structures, brain functions, drugs, vaccines, environmental toxins, social issues, attentional processes, emotional development, affective regulation, sexuality, musical and artistic talents, visual strategies and strengths, memory skills, language, auditory processing, gestures, voice, routines, motor coordination, co-morbid, or co-existing conditions such as ADHD, OCD, Depression, Anxiety, etc. and the list goes on…
Do you focus on strengths or weaknesses? Children or Adults? Verbal or non-verbal individuals? What about gender differences? Are you interested in getting a diagnosis or finding appropriate treatments and interventions? Do you have a diagnosis and just wish everyone would leave you alone because you’re fine with who you are?
A well-known fact is: what you focus on you amplify. That does not mean other things are irrelevant or unimportant, but if you’re looking through a magnifying glass, it’s pretty hard to see things beyond the circle of the glass until you step back. The lens you look through, impacts what you see. This blog is a lens that will see small pieces of a very large puzzle-humans! Whether we carry a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, another diagnosis or no diagnosis at all, we are human beings first. If we get too caught up in the lens of the diagnosis or a specialty area, we miss the person behind the magnifying glass.