Autism can be referred to as ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorders which are a set of brain-related disorders that can highly affect the way anyone engages in social communication (Sarnia, 2017). It is also known to create behavioural challenges as well as impairing the social and communication skills. It is the developmental disability that often impairs the mental, physical or intellectual growth of the sufferers (Wehman et al., 2014). Autistic behaviour is a grey zone where one individual with the disease can be incredibly gifted, intellectually speaking and another needing help in his or her daily lives and chores. It is such a disability that cannot be measured, quantified or tested. It has been seen that autism affects male children more than it affects the female. It is 4.5 times more likely for a little boy to develop autistic disabilities (Wong et al., 2015). There is no scientific evidence that would successfully explain the causes of autism but it has been linked to genetic abnormalities. With a steady rise in the autistic population, it can also be seen that there are fewer efforts to actually chalk out the channels through which the children with autism are being socially excluded. In order to include them in the mainstream society, one must first identify the intensity and means through which these children with autism are othered, in other words, socially excluded. This paper will discuss in depth the concept of Autism with relevant theoretical underpinning along with finding a literature gap that will help to explore the unexplored part concerning children with autistic conditions.
The Concept of Autism
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a clinical term that encompasses certain diagnostic categories which are Asperger’s Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) and Autistic Disorder. Besides, a triad of impairments can ideally present a clinical identification of Autism Spectrum Disorder. The triad includes Stereotyped or repetitive interests or behaviour, qualitative difficulties in social interaction and qualitative difficulties in communications. Generally, it has been seen that these disabilities start surfacing prior to the age of three years. Asperger’s Disorder falls under the spectrum and differs only mildly from a typical case of autism. Sufferers of this disease do not showcase learning or cognitive impairment at an early age. It also does not impair the self help skill set development of the children. A case of PDD-NOS will typically be recognized as some difficulty in social interactions and communication. It can also meet certain parameters of one or more than one aspect from the triad. However, the symptoms of PDD-NOS ds not either meet the criteria or Asperger or Autism. It is also known as atypical autism. According to Kamio, Inada and Koyama (2013), the term spectrum clearly gives an internal view that Autism is a disability which acts as an umbrella term for an array of symptoms and disabilities which differ from person to person. It has been often seen, as aforementioned, that children with autism in sixty per cent cases show high functioning brain where they can either be at per intellectually with children without autism or they can possess extremely sharp intellectual skills; hence they are termed as high functioning autism. There are multiple symptoms that confirm the prevalence of autism in any individual. Apart from the challenges that one faces to socially interact and communicate, it is also seen that the sufferer of autism has a knack for repetitive motor behaviour which includes rocking or swaying in a particular manner or motion and flapping palms or hands. The insistence of parity and similarity or sameness often leads the sufferer to be extremely rigid to any kind of change. Autism can also lead the sufferer to aggression and self injury along with seizures (Hayes & Watson, 2013). Leo Kanner who first documented autism noticed that the children who were subject to his research were mostly interested in inanimate objects and the environment around them as they solely rejected any interaction with the human society.
Autism in an Australian Context
In Australia, it is estimated that one in one hundred and fifty people has Autism. The reported cases of autism in Australia are on the rise as more and more children are being affected by Autism. Autism can be easily detected in children who make up for eighty three per cent of the whole population with traits and symptoms of autism in Australia. In the words of Loomes, Hull and Mandy (2017), prevalent mostly amongst children under five years of age, autism also affects male children four times more than it does to a female. Male children consist of eighty one per cent of the total population of children who are sufferers of this disease (Werling & Geschwind 2013). Children with autism are bound to face some barriers based on one reason, that they are different from the society at a majority. An estimated 83,700 children are suffering from Autism in Australia and they are facing a lot of difficulties as they are often the ones facing social stigma (Hendricks, 2010). The children with such conditions often are subjected to alienation a regular school cannot cope up with the special instructional methods that these children are in need of. On the other hand, special schools cater to the needs of these children but leave them to face the social consequences that are inevitable with an autistic condition. According to Test, Smith and Carter (2014), the children are susceptible to learning difficulties, communication problems and they in the most cases cannot fit in socially. Most of the children need special tutors who would support their learning system and counsellors who would help them cope up socially. The children face the consequence of their disease throughout their life. It is not uncommon for some of them to remain unemployed throughout their life for their physical condition. Some of them also face employment restrictions along with the problem of not getting a suitable job or a job that they are passionate about. Autism also brings on core activity limitations for the children. Once the core activity limitation phase comes on, it only means that these children will need help with their daily activities, for example, taking self care or performing daily duties or chores. Autistic children are easily distinguished from other members of the society and are subject to social stigma. In Australia, the Helping Children with Autism program lends a helping hand to the children who are sufferers of autism and are under the age of seven. According to Taylor and Seltzer (2011), the NDA or National Disability Agreement ensures that the autism struck children get the social and legal help that they deserve and eventually transfers all these cases to be covered under the National Disability Insurance Scheme. A high amount of children with autism in Australia also opts for mainstream health services in order to sustain in their day to day social life. The Australian government also provides fair opportunities for the autistic teenagers to get employment as the employment opportunities often come with assistance that will let the autistic teenagers and adults to get a suitable and deserving job in the open labour market (Burke et al., 2010). The autistic children can also opt for community access services that boast many opportunities or the children to gain life skills as well as help them to develop and sharpen their full potential through different controlled programs.
It has been reiterated through a vast amount of literature about the different difficulties that the children with Autism face in their day to day life. Seldom, though, it has been discussed that the children with such conditions are subjected to major social exclusions. According to Roux et al. (2013) the social stigma about Autism leads a majority of the people present at any public space to vilify the parents of the autistic kids from the underlying belief that autism is indeed another term for bad parenting. The symptoms of autism overlap with the symptoms of child tantrums and hence most of the time, the acceptance towards autism becomes a subject of vilifying parents. It has been reported by parents of autistic children that the children often face social consequences which are beyond hurtful. The social stigma also hampers the flow of growth of these children as it also stunts the social growth and interaction of these children, further. In the words of Kerns et al., (2013), the judgment which is socially conferred often finds the autistic children to be tainted, or to be drastically different from the population at large. The social stigma often, as opposed to encouraging the already socially inferior group of children, disposes them or forces them to be moved to the fringes of any social setting. It is of utmost importance that it be examined, the different channels of infringement that the autistic children face in their daily lives. Some of them often do not get employed or remain unmarried. Most of them are tagged as unable to work as the workplace has no extra place of compassion for the socially awkward. The children with autism also suffer in school as the children often stigmatise them, bully them or pick on them (Cappadocia, Weiss & Pepler 2012). The othering of the autistic children leads to inferiorizing or dehumanising them. The following study will examine in social contexts, the channels and widespread of social exclusion that the autistic children undergo (Tyler, MacDonald & Menear, 2014). It will also discuss in depth, the consequences of stigmatisation that is a part of othering human beings who are by appearance different from the mass population. It will try to chalk out the means by which society places the autistic children on to the fringes and will also discuss the consequences that the autistic children have to face in order to be a part of the macro society.
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