While I am not an expert in the matter, I wanted to bring forward a better understanding about autism. It’s mostly also a quest of my own as I thought I knew what it was all about until I really looked into it.

What do we know?

To be honest, I wasn’t completely correct in my understanding. I was literally confusing it with trisomy… Hence, I thought about asking around, approaching my peers to see what they know about it. I have shared their responses below.

What I know is that it is described as a neuro-developmental disorder that manifests itself with difficulties with social interactions and communications. I think they tend to have repetitive behaviours. But I think beyond that they can be highly capable individuals who interact with the world differently than what is expected in ‘normal circumstances’.” – Yovania, Public Health Professional (currently full time mum)

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to other people. Autism also affects how they make sense of the world around them. Many people with autism can live independently while some others may need specialised support.” – Arjun, IT professional

What I know, in general, is that it is a psychological disorder where the child has difficulties in communicating and he/she has specific behaviours. I remember there was an 8 year old autistic girl at the swimming pool who would not let anyone teach her, she would rather observe and learn on her own.” – Noorina, French educator.

From what I know about autism, is that compared to the old belief, it is not a mental sickness but a neuro-developmental disorder which can be detected at an early stage of childhood. I consider autism to be a way of being different and unique in the way one communicates, thinks or expresses oneself and we should all be able to welcome this difference among us. Too many times, I’ve heard people making fun or criticize autistic children, including the parents (yes it still happens in 2021!!!) without understanding anything out of it… This is why awareness is crucial as well as multi-disciplinary care which is adapted for the autistic children so that they can grow up, develop and integrate society with the same opportunities that we all have…” – Caroline, Counselor

Obviously, as we all tend to do these days, I also went googling about it to get more information and pretty much what my friends have stated sums up what is autism. It is a disorder and not a disease, hence it is not transmitted from one person to another and has no pathology. Instead, it is a disorder of the brain or I would rather interpret it as a different development of the brain. The signs can be detected in children as early as 12 months but mostly during the 2nd and 3rd year. Characteristics would be communication difficulties, repetitive behaviours, and the lack of eye contact or interest in people. The toughest part is that there is no specific cause for autism, it may be genetic or non genetic (environment influences) which compared to a disease, there is no such prevention.

How do we treat it?

Since I stated that I would interpret it as an altered brain development, let’s just use the analogy of a plant which is not growing straight. We would usually use a support to help it grow properly. The same applies here where therapies exist to accompany autistic patients to enhance their communication, social and motor skills. We cannot expect them to become completely ‘normal’ yet these therapies would help them integrate our society. It is has also been observed that autism may changes over years where children of 6 years can have less severe symptoms. Some children have also shown to have lost all symptoms as they grew up.

How about our role in it?

I personally find it unfair to expect only the autistic person to adapt and try to integrate our society. What if we did our part in facilitating their integration? From the conversations I’ve had about autism, I’ve also heard about bullying and the taboo around it. I firmly believe that it is not acceptable that in 2021, people are still making fun or turning away from autism. If completely insane behaviours, as we see in TikTok videos or any other sharing platforms, can be tolerated (or worse made viral), then it should be easy to understand that not all human beings has the same brain development…

I also read that 1 out of 50-ish person is autistic and coincidentally, 3 out of the friends I have approached, are close to or know someone autistic which means that it does not just ‘happen to the others’.

Since we consider ourselves ‘the normal ones’ then we should be able to open up our mind and accept autistic people without mockery or judgement. Let’s all change our perspectives, let’s see them as special beings but not because it is a disorder but rather because they have different potential. So what if they like to be alone? They can have brilliant ideas (even better than ours) thriving in their minds and if we show compassion, we may end up discovering these ideas. We may be used to communicating verbally but they can always communicate through their special ways – drawing for instance. All it requires is an understanding mind on our side…

Famous autistic persons

The proof that autistic persons have different potentials is the existence of those famous persons who, according to experts, display(ed) characteristics of the autism spectrum. They have nevertheless been successful and unique in their field of expertise such as Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Bill Gates and Susan Boyle among others. It shows that they can become rich and famous too or I would rather think that their special brain development actually gave them the cutting edge to be the difference (and revolution?) in their fields…

How can we help in Mauritius?

As I mentioned earlier, autistic children require special support and therapies to enhance their social and communication abilities. Unfortunately, we lack in specialised institutions and general awareness. In this line of thought, the director of Dukesbridge, a private school in Mauritius, has taken the initiative to raise funds to set up a professional centre for children of special needs (autism, ADHD, down syndrome and other disorders).

He brought up the wonderful idea of making a music album with children of the school which not only spreads awareness on several topics like our multicultural nation, our history and autism but also will help in financing a non-profit organisation to set up the centre. I therefore invite you to discover the album ‘Children of all colours’, by Dukesbridge United, on iTunes and Amazon, until the CDs are out. You can also like and subscribe to the Dukesbridge channel on YouTube and enjoy the video clips of some of the songs.

‘Roy the Special Boy’

If you still feel unsure about autism, have a look at ‘Roy the Special Boy‘ on YouTube. It explains, in a very simple manner, the challenges of an autistic child as well as the parents. The best part of it is that it is for all audiences – children and adults. Fun fact about the song – apart from the lyrics which describes autism, you will notice that the singer seems to sing in a kind of robotic voice. This is again a characteristic of autistic children which I think has been brilliantly integrated in the song.