This is an entry for the Weekend Assignment. The task this week is to describe what the world will be like in fifty-one years' time. Well, America, not the world, but I'm editing to fit my abilities here! Hope Carly and Karen who set the assignment won't mind. Also, I hope they won't mind that I've changed the logo!
In 2062, my son Max will be 59. His friends Imogen and Julius will be 55 and 53. My bloggy friends' sons Jacob and HRH will be 59 and 53. Hopefully by then mid to late fifties will count as late middle age! But I'm not so much worried about their physical conditions. I've got some other more pressing questions: where will they be in 2062? Will they be hiding out, alone, in bedsits? Scared to come out in a world they still don't really understand and that definitely doesn't understand them? Will they be shunned by society? These are not crazy worries. This is the world many adult autists live in now, and unless some pretty hefty changes take place in the next fifty years, it's not going to be any different for our kids. And, let's face it, in fifty years' time, we might no longer be around to help them.
But I think big changes are afoot. As we understand autism better, we are able to help our kids more. Fifty years ago, not many of them would have been diagnosed, and they would have been treated mostly like any other mental patient, that is, hidden away, drugged, electrocuted, and if not, pretty much left to their own devices. Now my son spends several hours every week with people specially trained to help him learn, to help him interact with others, to help him relax and enjoy the world around him. His school, although not equipped to deal with autism - yep, we're expats - is making huge efforts to help. The teachers are finding out as much as they can, they're asking questions, adapting to Max's needs, trusting he can learn as well as the other kids and doing all they can to achieve this.
What's also changing is people's perceptions of autism. There's a lot more info out there, reaching people and telling them about children like Max, Imogen, Julius, HRH and Jacob. There's the new Autism Awareness Day, for one thing, which will hopefully get bigger and reach more people. Then there's us, bloggers, who talk about our own or our children's struggles. Many of our readers don't have autistic children, so hopefully, they're fnding out about it and it's becoming part of their world too.
But the biggest change is in the numbers. More and more children are being diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Some of which are very high functioning but still faces challenges which are specific to autism. As much as 1 in every 166 children may have autism. That's a lot. And they're getting diagnosed, so they know they're autistic, we know they are. By 2062 these will not be random loners or weirdos you meet in the street, but they will be people who have grown up with a recognised condition and received care and treatment throughout their lives for it. Because many do not consider autism to be a disease, they may well be proud of who they are, hold their head high, embrace their difference.
Those who find it difficult to communicate through speech may have no compunction about coming up to you with an electronic device on to which they can type their questions. Also, because autistic people tend to feel uncomfortable when there is a lot of background noise, you may come across people who wear ear muffs when it isn't cold. Quite a few of them in supermarkets, train stations, busy streets. At work you may have colleagues who tell you that you're doing something wrong, but can't explain, because they think in pictures, not in words. Because you'll be used to that instead of thinking them rude, you'll just wait for them to show you, and be grateful for their help.
There'll be so many of them that acceptance will no longer be an issue. The world will no longer be run by and for the neuro typicals. Clever, outspoken and generous autistic adults will carve out a place for themselves and their peers. But my biggest hope is that our children will not be alone in 2062, that they'll have friends, partners, maybe children of their own. As things are, this doesn't happen very often. Autistic people sometimes - find others too difficult to understand to want to share their lives with them. Sometimes it's others who find them too difficult.
Either way, in 2062, things will be different. There will be so many autistic adults who have grown up with the condition, who know what they are and who are confident of their abilities that there's a real hope that they'll get together, for friendship, support, partnership, funding families. I think of Max's friends Imogen and Julius, how already they care for each other, are sensitive to each others' needs, and I'm truly hopeful. I'm hopeful that because they're all on the spectrum, they'll grow closer, not apart, as they grow older. They will never think of each other as weird, there will never be a point in their life when they look back and think: 'I used to be friends with this little boy. He was autistic. Now of course, we belong to different worlds.'
These kids will be the grown ups of 2062, so go and meet them now:
You can also meet some great autistic kids and their parents here, and here, and many other places. And if you want to know more about the challenges of being an autistic adult now, go and visit Rachel here.
And if you know anyone else you'd like me to meet, why don't you add the link to their parent's blogs in the comments?
Oh, one last thing. If you liked this post, would you mind terribly clicking on the RSS feed, here, or the Google connect buttons (top left), or by email at the bottom of this page? And if you didn't like it, you might still want to look around. There's three of us, you know, so you're (almost) bound to find something you like. And then, if you've still got time, you could share this post or stumble it, or both and get in touch with your local tv station to sing our praises. We'll love you forever.