I object to the term ‘low functioning’, as in “Billy has low-functioning autism.” After all, we don’t say that about neuro-typical individuals whose abilities may limit their options. And, “high-functioning” can be just as pejorative, considering that Temple Grandin is not really a ‘high-functioning’ autistic person, she’s a brilliant individual.
What is generally meant by the term-in-question is “Displays disruptive behaviors,” and/or “a severe lack of expressive language.” But, of course, we wouldn’t call a mute person ‘low-functioning’ (although not too long ago, people said “deaf and dumb”). Every child has special abilities, our job is to find and maximize them.
This week, The Child Development Center had the honor of taking pride in one of our patients who appeared on various popular media outlets, such as CNN, Good Morning America, local TV stations, and The View. Jacob made the news because of his abilities as a piano prodigy, while being an otherwise normal kid, except for his high-functioning autism, which was only presented as an undercard in the story. Way to go, popular media!
Our practice helps care for a three year-old severely apraxic child who can play Bach on the keyboard, but never had a lesson. We have discovered some children with perfect pitch. Several patients have given piano recitals to large audiences. Another young man is a great public speaker. Karen, our patient and kind office manager, has a son with fantastic artistic talent, as well as being able to Xerox his works, sans a copy machine. The watercolor displayed here is but one of a number of amazing pictures by another young artist, who is our patient, as well. Plus, there are many more examples of remarkable children who have developmental challenges, yet perform unexpected tasks, both extraordinary and ordinary.
Your son or daughter who has been diagnosed with autism needs our help to discover the best means to achieve optimal health and persist in the desire to put things on the right track. Parents do their best. Resources, such as time and money must be allocated, especially when there are other children to be considered.
What is sorely lacking is the medical community’s support. Any time a child makes progress, “It would have happened, anyway,” claim the experts. In this case, an astute mother recognized unusual patterns in her child and, despite what the authorities diagnosed and advised, she sought further assistance. At first, things were not going perfectly well for our now-famous musician. The parents were supportive of everything that felt safe for their child, and biomedical interventions appeared to work great. Nevertheless, the conventional medical establishment continues to deny that alternative approaches have worth.
I’m not absolutely certain that every laboratory test was important, each dietary restriction appropriate, or the myriad of supplements and medicines all efficacious. But, children who are healthy thrive and respond to school, ABA, S&L, OT, PT and all the other therapies better.
The journey and the work are worth it, not just for the most talented, but for every child with developmental concerns. Just like in the neuro-typical world.