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With a few words on each page, "Why Is He Doing That?" explains the many questions typical students may have about students with autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who are mainstreamed into general education classrooms. "Why Is He Doing That?" is presented in a way to encourage acceptance, kindness, and inclusion of students with autism with simplicity and love, because we are all different, just like everyone else.


Spectrum in Retrospect

Rachael M Cuellar

    In social settings, the “elephant in the room” is usually detected when a person does not follow appropriate social cues and another person thinks in their mind, “Why Is He Doing That?” An individual diagnosed with Autism or Aspergers is commonly found in a situation similar to the elephant in the room. The person may be interrupting the conversation, changing the conversation consistently to what he or she wants to talk about, or may not understand how to politely share a conversation the way most individuals learned. The person could believe the person in question simply has a habit of displaying impolite social graces, and this could lead to a misunderstanding of the individual’s responses. Understanding the similarities and differences of Autism and/or Asperger’swill lead to compassion, tolerance, awareness, and kindness towards an individual with a diagnosis. 

    The word Autism, in and of it self means, “Escape from reality,” which provides an excellent understanding of what Autism truly represents. In the age range of two to three is where a child begins to socialize and build character. During this time, parents may notice that the child is meeting their typical milestones of expectation in growth. They may also take note of signs in the child’s development that indicate he or she may be delayed in their growth, such as their cognitive, social, and behavioral abilities. Once parents have concerns, the earlier a diagnosis is made, the better services will be provided to help the individual succeed with their disability. Autism cannot be cured, but it can be treated with the services, therapy, and medication to improve an individual’s quality of life (Ehlers, 1998).

    Autism is an intellectual disability genetically to the brain which affects the individual’s social and developmental interactions. The impairment affects behavioral responses, interests in activities, occupational routines, refusal of affection, severity of the five senses, and other important areas of functioning. Many individuals diagnosed with Autism struggle with social interactions, making eye-contact, motor coordination, learning disability,  abstract concepts, sensitivity to sounds, and asking repetitive questions. Commonly, individuals with Autism tend to be borderline obsessed with an interest, insist on orderly fashioned organization, and are not adventurous to try new things. Individuals with autism tend to be weaker in social skills such as understanding sarcasm or irony, misunderstanding social rules, showing lack of empathy, and unable to read facial expressions (Medovich, 2011). However, they excel in their gifted creativity through art, music, and imagination. They can also be incredibly intelligent and proficient of information by skilled memory.

    In the 1940s, a pediatrician by the name of Hans Asperger’s, best known for his research and studies as a behavioral therapist for young boys focusing on social and communication skills with typical intelligence and language development. In 1994, the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders added Asperger’s Disorder on the Autism Spectrum, thereby differentiating it from the Autism Disorder (Kirby, 2015). As an observation, professionals consider Asperger’s as a higher functioning form of Autism on the spectrum. Studies of the number of incidences of Asperger’s not been conducted, but research has shown that the difficulties with socialization and communication continue in later years, after formal education is done. When an individual is diagnosed with Asperger’s, a child must have normal language development as well as normal intelligence (Medovich, 2011). Generally, typical people do not recognize an individual has Asperger’s because of how high-functioning the interaction is. The similarities in Asperger’s is similar in the symptoms of Autism.

    A professional who diagnose individuals with Autism and/or Asperger’s will go through two steps: Developmental Screening and a Comprehensive Diagnostic Evaluation. Developmental Pediatricians, Child Neurologists, Child Psychologists are all professionals involved in the individual’s diagnosis for the Autism Spectrum Disorder, which is under the umbrella of Asperger’s Disorder (Lord C, 2006). The many techniques to test a child if he or she is on the spectrum will be the same tests for Autism and Asperger’s. Behaviors that are common in both Autism and Asperger’s are obsessive interest in activities and objects, inappropriate social rules, lack in eye contact, and in high-IQ intelligence. High-functioning Autism and Asperger syndrome are both part of the Autism Spectrum. In 2013, DSM-5 is the reason why Autism and Asperger’s categorized together because it’s similarity. It’s only the severity of functioning that differentiates the Autism and Asperger’s (Kirby, 2015). 

    The main difference in Autism and Asperger is a speech delay in Autism; where-as in Asperger’s, there is no speech delay. Individuals with Asperger’s have well-spoken language skills compared to an individual with Autism who may not be able to speak a word during their lifetime. The language deficiency is caused by how severe and how much therapy has been implemented after being diagnosed. Asperger is less severe symptoms compared to Autism. Overall, to the untrained observer, a child with Asperger’s Disorder may just seem like a typical individual behaving differently (Ehlers, 1998). Autism is an early intervention diagnosing at the age of 3 years old and Asperger’s diagnosed at school age of 6 years old. 

    The greatest difference between Autism and Asperger is the risk of mental health issues and higher depression rate of suicide in Asperger’s, because the individual has a difficult time accepting he or she is different. The depression is rooted to lack of community in friendships, feeling misunderstood, figuring out how to live life to the best ability, and being identified by their disability before their identity. The difference in social behavior is how an individual with Asperger’s could communicate their feelings better than an individual with Autism. The similarities in social behavior is how the individual with Autism and Asperger’s guides what they want to talk about: they do not understand the adequacy of sharing a conversation, rather than controlling the conversation, to have each person enjoy the conversation. The social skills is a considerable need for the individual with Autism or Asperger’s to be practiced with reminders, patience, and consistency.

    Why does it matter that they are different disorders on the same spectrum? Individuals function uniquely when adapting to life with their disability, yet the disability is still practiced by its ability. As a metaphor, the Autism Spectrum is like a machine: it is not broken, but it has a missing button that does not allow the machine to perform to its highest degree if merely function differently, than other machines. The machine will find a balance to work accordingly and correctly once solving the complication. The similarity of Autism and Asperger’s so in-sync, it could correspond altogether as Autism Syndrome Disorder based of the determined severity of the disability. It could change the services provided for the individual as well as a better understanding of the Autism Spectrum Disorder. The awareness matters when learning and understanding the diagnosis of the Spectrum Disorder.

Joyfully, Rachael M Cuellar