Imagine growing up feeling something is just not right with you. That no matter how hard you try, there always will be something that does not make sense, that barrier you can’t cross. This is the life for many undiagnosed children on the Autistic Spectrum.
As 1 in 68 children (according to American statistics) are affected in varying degrees of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) resources and research need to go towards help for people who are suffering this disorder. In America, only 0.5% of the annual health money allocation goes directly to Autism research. This is absurd seeing as in the US and worldwide Autism is one of the fastest growing disorders, and we know so little about it.
ASD, is so diverse and covers so many aspects, doctors have a hard time finding a way to diagnose and categorise all cases. As such, many children go undiagnosed past the recommended age of 4, to allow successful early support, and instead are mostly being identified age 6 or even years above. These early years are crucial for social, physical and mental growth, and having an unknown disorder such as Autism to go on diagnosed, is detrimental.
Waiting lists for diagnosis of autism can take months or even years. 1 in 3 families wait a year for a diagnosis, while 1 in 5 wait nearly 2. Due to the lack of specialists focusing in this area, and the lack of knowledge from general practitioners, getting an accurate diagnosis and follow-up treatment is a struggle for many families.
Autism as a disorder is shown as a scale. It varies from highly extreme to basic symptoms, known generally as high functioning to low functioning. This is known as the Autistic Spectrum. Anyone that fits to any degree of this spectrum qualifies as Autistic. However, there is a serious problem now arising. This spectrum was completely created around male Autistic standards, not taking into account how females handled the disorder differently. Boys are said to be affected 5 times more likely than girls.
However this claim may have to be reevaluated. Recent information has come out saying that the girls are being inefficiently diagnosed and as some go their whole life believing they do not have autism and just don’t fit in or understand social norms because they are different. Studies have even recently linked certain eating disorders and OCD in girls to Autism. These habits are due to certain girls trying to find a coping mechanism to deal with their lack of understanding. There is so much we are left to learn about Autism itself, especially in females. Because in the past we have been diagnosing girls to male standards, henceforth only diagnosing a small percentage, the girl:boy Autism ratio could be a lot closer than previously expected and that there is a even higher percentage of Autistic people worldwide that have not been able to have been diagnosed. Studies say there could be more than 100,000 undiagnosed autistic females in the UK alone.
When a girl gets a diagnosis, they often have symptoms overlooked. A common trait of Autism in boys is extreme shyness and a lack of a need to socialise. This however is overlooked in girls as a character trait.
Other common Autistic traits in boys include:
- unusually intense or focused interests
- stereotyped and repetitive body movements such as spinning
- repetitive use of objects such as repeatedly switching lights on and off
- insistence on sticking to routines
- unusual sensory interests such as staring intently at moving objects
- sensory sensitivities including avoidance of everyday sounds and textures
Specialists in this area of study have also realised that common Autistic traits in males, such as a singular focus for a hobby, that is normally electronically or mechanically based, is often absent in females. How can we expect to seek out all autistic girls in need if we do not even know what we are looking for?
It shocks me that such a prevalent and growing issue is still being ignored and being given less consideration than other less damaging medical problems that already have due research and funds being given to them. The government needs to more equally balance out medical funds to move the nation forward in terms of health.
My brother is on the Autism Spectrum Disorder and he himself, did not get diagnosed until age 8. Due to lack of sufficient knowledge and medical support, he got diagnosed at twice the recommended age. This has without a doubt been detrimental in long term growth, as well as with social and physical developments. Hundreds of thousands of children go their whole childhood not understanding themselves, having to be diagnosed as an adult or not at all. Other than the lack of help in developing years, children under the age of 7 who have been diagnosed with ASD get special benefits to help pay for therapy and support, another benefit we missed out on due to a lack of diagnosis. This, in the long term, cost us thousands, and many other families are in the same boat.
This needs to stop.
We fund and research other illnesses and disability’s seriously, why not Autism?
If this doesn’t prove that Autism needs more awareness and research, nothing will.
But there is something we can do about it. There are many online informative sites that can help you if you believe that a child, family member or even yourself might be on the Autism Spectrum. You can help educate yourself and others to bring more awareness to this disorder. You can also help by signing petitions online, or letting your voice be heard.
You can bring about change in the under diagnosis of Autistic children.
By L-R .B