The world is full of people whose parents were told they would either die at a young age, or never be able to achieve the things that everybody else does, for whatever reason. A large number of these people have lived far past the point they were expected to, or developed and achieved far more than any professional could have guessed they would. When somebody is diagnosed as an adult they can look back at what they have already achieved. But when parents are told that their young child is autistic should they listen to what the professionals tell them about the likely outcomes for their child’s future? or maybe disregard this?
The short answer is probably to disregard it – and this will be explained in more detail. This article isn’t meant to suggest that professionals are useless and unnecessary, it is just pointing out how difficult this aspect of their job can actually be. In that moment of confusion and uncertainty, when parents are told their child is autistic, a professional may appear to be an all-seeing, all-knowing entity. But in reality they are no more than meteorologists; they can take the knowledge they have of autism, and of other people at a similar level on the spectrum, look at the information available to them, and make what they believe to be a mostly-accurate prediction – but the emphasis here is on the word prediction. They can`t see the future; they don’t know what will happen in the next twenty years of that child`s life.
Autism in incredibly unpredictable.
Parents can, and do invent entire systems of their own to help their child with things such as speech or independence. The strangest things can bring out developments nobody could have predicted beforehand; for example, children being non-verbal right up to the point where they begin to talk to the family`s new kitten in fully formed sentences.
The other important thing to remember here is that professionals tend to make predictions about the worst possible outcome of a situation. This covers them in all eventualities, and also means that whatever happens, the family of the person has time to prepare. This applies to injury, and long-term illness, but it may also be used when talking about autism. When professionals offer a prediction, or are asked to make a prediction they can`t say `I think the child will go to university` for example – they have no idea what the parents, and other professionals may do to help the child reach that point in the intervening years. it is more likely that many will air on the side of caution, and make what could be perceived as a negative prediction about that child`s future.
As stated above, this article isn’t meant to be disparaging of professionals. In fact, it is supposed to do the opposite, and highlight how difficult this aspect of their job can be. But it would be better if they perhaps looked at the amount of people who have exceeded the expectations set for them, and delved in to this a little with parents. For example, if they tell a parent that their child will probably always be non-verbal; instead of just sending them away with this they could explain how many people are non-verbal, but live perfectly happy lives communicating through writing and sign language.
Parents need to listen to professionals and take their advice on board, but always remember that they are human, and therefore fallible. Their predictions are only predictions. A child`s future is not pre-ordained in a doctor’s office. Anything can and often does happen in people`s lives. Sometimes professionals may be right with their predictions, and this is fine, but they will also be wrong at times, and this is very important for parents, people with autism, and especially the professionals themselves to bear in mind.