To many people, "recovery" is the other "r-word" when it's applied to autism. It's a very controversial topic within the autism community. When I speak to parents or professionals about recovery from autism, I notice that some of them look at me like I've said something offensive. When I say that our family's overall goal is to recover my son from autism, some argue that if a child has been diagnosed with autism, there's no possible way that they could ever recover from it.
But why not? If you really think about it, a child gets diagnosed with autism based on his behaviors. To date, no definitive neurological test exists that diagnoses autism in children (or adults, for that matter). Also,there are no physical traits that exist across the board in children on the autism spectrum. In my career as a special education teacher and my years taking my son to therapists, I have seen many, many children on the autism spectrum. Without exception, the children have been identified and diagnosed based on their behaviors.
So, if behaviors determine a diagnosis, what happens if a child's behaviors improve? What if, through intensive therapies and the best nutrition and diet, the child's behaviors improve to the point that he no longer meets the criteria for autism? Autism recovery happens, that's what!
Now, you might be thinking, "That doesn't sound like a cure though", and that's true. A cure would mean that no matter what situation arose in life, my son would deal with it in a totally neurotypical way. That's not what I'm talking about here. I hope that a cure for autism is on the way. But in the meantime, I'm working hard for autism recovery. Really hard. After all, what do I have to lose? If my son's behaviors improve to the point that he no longer meets the criteria for having autism, that's great! Wonderful! If his behaviors continue to meet the criteria for autism, even after all of the time and effort that my wife and I have put into it, what have we lost? Time and effort, that's all. I'll take that risk any day.
Because what we're really talking about are a child’s abilities: the ability to cope with difficulty, the ability to hold conversations with friends and family, the ability to be in school without an aide, and the list goes on and on. While I'm working for autism recovery, I'm improving my son's abilities to do those things and so much more. I am seeing those improvements every week.
So, I believe in autism recovery. Will it happen for my son? Yes, I believe it will, and I'm willing to work hard for it. In a recent post, I said that the average person is willing to work harder for a bigger payoff. To me, autism recovery is the biggest payoff. I'm going for it.
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