As I stated in a previous blog post, depression is one of the many things a person on the Spectrum endures in their life. It can be onset by a lot of things, but the main cause for mine is the thought of being alone and never really able to do much about it because with every social situation can bring unnerving anxiety. For most of the years growing up and college I wanted to share what I was feeling but had always been to nervous to post or talk about what I was feeling due to what actions the people that heard/saw this would do knowing how I was feeling.
To combat some of these thoughts, late at night I would write down how I felt, only to erase/throw it away a day or two later. Well for some reason about two years ago I wrote something down on a piece of paper. However instead of throwing it away or erasing it, I typed it up.
I named this piece "Man in a Cage". It was how I was feeling towards my "disorder" at the time and thought it explains how some might feel that are dealing with this "disorder".
"Man in a Cage"
There is a man in a cage in the center of town. He has been there since he was born. He has no clue why he is there, just that he can’t seem to escape. He sees people walk past him, yet no one tries to help. They just see him as nothing more than a man in a cage and don’t seem to care why he is there. The years roll by and he meets some people who try to help him, but the cage is so complex that they cannot quite figure out how to completely set him free. To no fault of these people, they have to go and live their lives and the man understands. The man meets some people by pure curiosity, but since he’s been in this cage his whole life he tends to scare them away without ever really trying to. He comes to a point in his life that he really does not mind the cage. Instead of trying to get out he only hopes for a companion of sorts so that he can at least think he is free. But as the years roll by, it gets harder and harder to just sit in the cage watching the people pass by all the time.
I think it is plenty self-explanatory. However, in case it may not make sense. I am the man. The cage is this "disorder" that "traps" me from society, but keeping me in the middle of society. The people that try to help are my friends and family, who due to their own lives and obligations can not stay by me through my whole life trying to help me out constantly. The scaring people away is that being on the Spectrum, I do not always "fit" in and can seem awkward and creepy to a lot of people and thus keep people at a arms length not knowing how to deal with me. Lastly, the companion would be someone who I could have a long lasting devoted relationship with to share along in this life.
This is by far not my current view on my situation, but I just thought I share how it feels sometimes for me when I get down.
Lastly I want those who are on the Spectrum reading this and can relate, please speak to someone how you feel. It is not uncommon to feel this way with the way you are and just closing up and not talking to anyone just makes it worse. The more you share about yourself to others, the better they can help you in your journey we call life.
Vaccines cause Autism Spectrum Disorders. Absolutely false.
Before I even mention the research done in this area I would like to give two definitions.
Cause- condition that produces an effect: eliminating a cause eliminates the effect
Contributing Factor- condition that influences the effect by increasing its likelihood, either in time or severity; eliminating a contributing factor will not eliminate the effect
I stated these two definitions to inform that even if research backed vaccines, that vaccines could only attribute as a contributing factor since not all people who received vaccines are not Autistic and all people on the Spectrum did not receive vaccines.
To the research. There was a study done in 1998 that stated that the MMR vaccine caused a regression in developmental progress with the children in the study showed signs of Autism. Since then, the article has been retracted. When an article on a study is retracted, that means that the findings or study itself was flawed. This does not mean that MMR vaccine can not attribute to Autism.
There has now been a study recently showing that the MMR vaccine has no part in contributing to Autism Spectrum Disorders. This was published this year. To put it in simple terms the researchers looked at a database of families with more than one child that took the MMR vaccine and had at least one child on the spectrum and compared the siblings. The sample size by the way was over 95000 kids, which is insanely huge even for this kind of study. The findings said that even kids that were at a greater risk of being on the Spectrum, that the vaccine had no part in contributing to the fact whether a kid would be on the Spectrum or not. The name of this article is Autism Occurrence by MMR Vaccine Status Among US Children With Older Siblings With And Without Autism, for those wanting to read the whole article. I also plan to post the link on my Facebook page as well.
So if vaccines do not cause Autism Spectrum Disorders, what does?
I personally believe it is completely genetic. I believe like with most things, there is a standard deviation that is controlled by environmental factors. So like a person may be born with Autism and based on things like drugs, socioeconomic status, location of resources, and the other unidentified factors can make a person who already has Autism swing in either direction of more or less severe. I believe Autism can be a latent gene in some people, kinda like red hair can pop up in a kid three or four generations later when everyone forgot that a family member that had red hair way back when. I believe that Autism is a form of evolution, neither bad or good. I believe most parents try to put an environmental cause to Autism to try to shift the blame, because if it is genetic then they think it is their fault. When in reality no one is at fault because Autism is not a bad thing, it is just different from the societal norm.
With all that said, I am glad research will continue to try to understand this differentiation from the normalcy so that I can better understand who I am. Even if the ideas seem a little quirky sometimes.
When dealing with certain populations one word gets thrown around a lot, that word is advocacy or advocate.
What is this term?
Advocacy is an activity by an individual or group which aims to influence decisions within political, economic, social systems and institutions.
That seems pretty simple enough. To make change in a society about a issue/idea, one must advocate for it.
An example would be like No Shave November or the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. These simple activities brought the issues of prostate cancer and ALS to the forefront of societies mind in how we see and deal with these two issues by creating awareness of their respected presence in our society.
So the way I see it, advocacy has two steps. The first is to create awareness of the issue, while the other is to create acceptance/inclusion of the said issue into a society. These do not work with out each other and do not stop just because one is being fulfilled. Again, I will use NSN as an example. NSN created awareness for prostate cancer in our society by getting males to not shave during the month of November and hopefully getting a few to research it themselves on the facts of prostate cancer in order to tell other about why they are doing this activity. It then created inclusion/acceptance of those having to struggle with prostate cancer by showing them that people really are trying to understand this issue better, be accepting of those with the cancer, and help funding for the research needed to help stop this particular cancer.
So the question lies in the Autism Spectrum community of how to successfully advocate for it.
Some people think most people know about its prevalence, so they think creating awareness is not necessary. Some like me think, that since this so called "disorder" varies so vastly from person to person that there will never be creating enough awareness. However, the resources are still vastly lacking. If you asked me what the best way to advocate for ASD is, I could not give you an easy or great answer. The best way for me was to write about it.
This is why I created this blog, to try to create awareness for this issue. Not just for my friends and family to read, but for everybody so that there can be a better understanding of what having an Autism Spectrum Disorder is like and to hopefully help others realize that this is a major issue that we should be addressing.
The issue is that it is not something that should be cured or treated but something that should be nourished so those who are on the Spectrum can blossom and succeed in our society. That not everyone thinks a certain way and should not be taught as such. That just because someone has difficulties that they should not be shunned or outcasted as an alien or robot. That being successful in life is not always about the number of zeros on a paycheck.
Lastly, the most important thing I believe about advocating is that once you start you can never shun or belittle another issue in society based on your personal views or opinions. I say this because the most successful times for advocacy was when multiple groups supported each others issues to advance each others goals for each groups advocating efforts.
There a lot of people that stand by that pet therapy can be crucial for a person on the spectrum. That a pet can help comfort psychological pain; can be there to turn to when it is hard to talk to a human being; and will not judge you based on how you act in social situations. Summing it up to that they will care about you unconditionally, just because. I have found this to be true growing up.
My family has had numerous pets throughout the years, but only two really stood out. My first dog, Holly, a beagle that I got for Christmas one year. She was my first big time responsibility. She was so tiny, that at the beginning she fit in a car cup holder and could only go one house down on our first walk. The first night of her staying in our house, she whined for a long, long time. So instead of just trying to ignore her, I went and slept next to her that first night. I realized then that we were meant for each other. Throughout the next months she got bigger and bigger. She also developed a nasty habit of digging under the fence to go exploring with her beagle friend, that lived in the house behind ours. This habit turned out to be fatal for her. One month before her first assumed birthday, I came home to hear that she had been struck by a vehicle while on one of her adventures past the fence with her beagle friend. The news devastated me. The only thing that helped me get past it, was that her friend stood by her side the whole time protecting her body from other passer byres. The family decided to take some time before getting another dog.
The other pet that stood out to me was one of our two long haired dachshunds that we got almost immediately when we moved. Her name was Maple. One of the sweetest dogs I have ever known. She always seemed to be there when I was having trouble adjusting to a new school; when I got diagnosed and was unsure of it all; and when it seemed no one was listening to me during some rough teenage years. I considered her my dog, even though she was the family pet. I eventually went off to college, but no matter how long of a time I had been gone or how old she got, she would always greet me like I had never left. I was always thankful for that. Unfortunately, time recently caught up with her at the old age of sixteens years old and died this past Friday morning.
So as a somewhat tribute, I am writing this to tell you, my readers, that pet therapy can work for many people on the spectrum, despite lack of research on the topic. So if you are on the spectrum, or know someone on it, please think about getting a pet for yourself or help someone you know to, it can go a long way for them to have a companion that is always going to be there for them.
R.I.P my baby girls
Mark Fleming- Person on the Autism Spectrum