Today is World Autism Awareness Day and this year, as in years past, I’ve decided to take the day as an opportunity to discuss with you the disorder that affects 1 out of 68 American children. The disorder strikes more boys than girls, but only just. It strikes across racial and class lines. It is pernicious and it is growing and we still don’t have any idea what causes it, how it develops, or how to treat it effectively.
When I first started seeing a psychiatrist for meds five years ago, he did a full diagnostic work-up on me and said that, yes, I suffer from Bipolar II, but I manifest a number of traits associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Neither of these diagnoses came as a terrible shock, or at least they didn’t in retrospect, because I’d been showing the symptoms of both for my entire life. The bipolar really got hold of me in my teens, but I’d always been an odd child and, in a key developmental track, I’d been significantly behind: speaking. I can speak now (perhaps too much), but sometimes it’s difficult. More crucially, though, I have issues with social cues and behaviors and this has led more than once to me pissing people off when I had no intention of doing so. They assume malice and never stop to consider other causes.
Given that I have the Krazy Straw genes necessary for a couple of disorders, it should probably come as no surprise that my son has suffered. Unlike me, he is firmly on the autism spectrum and suffers the stigma and difficulties associated with that. He’s also, in recent years, become more volatile, which may be a precursor to a full-blown case of bipolar. A double whammy no one would wish on their worst enemy, and I have to stand by and watch it ravage my son every day.
There are some things that work sometimes with some sufferers of autism. There are behavioral therapies that can, if applied early enough and consistently enough, alleviate some of the worst maladaptive ways of the autistic child and adult. Sometimes drugs work, specifically antipsychotics, as these have a tendency to slow the brain down to allow more rational thought. Antipsychotics are most commonly used for people with Bipolar I or Bipolar II, so there’s an added benefit in my son’s case.