When he was eight years old, the parents of Joshua Dushack learned that their son was different. He had been diagnosed with Autism. According to the doctors, Joshua would never be able to read, write, talk, or go to school on his own.
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This might have been the case, had his parents accepted it. But his mother saw her son as a normal boy, and treated him as such. He did need some extra help in school, but because of her, Joshua not only learned basic intellectual skills, but he went on to college. There, he used his disability to his advantage. His habit of repeating television lines helped him realize his passion for the theatre. In an article he wrote for the website Autism Speaks, Dushack said, “I didn’t know that ‘normal’ children didn’t repeat lines from television. I didn’t know they wouldn’t watch the same movie over-and-over or repeat the same thing over-and-over”. He has since graduated from college and begun coaching children with Autism in theatre productions.
As with any mental illness, there were certain criterion that Joshua had to fit in order to have a diagnosis. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders says, in regards to Autism criteria, “Autism spectrum disorder is diagnosed only when the characteristic deficits of social communication are accompanied by excessively repetitive behaviours, restricted interests, and insistence on sameness”. In his childhood, Joshua had behaviour that fit each of the criterion. He loved telephones without being able to speak on them, and had extensive knowledge on Abraham Lincoln. Those were his restricted interests. He also had the habit of saying lines from television shows over and over for seemingly no reason.This would be his repetitive behaviour and insistence on sameness. He kept going back go to the same shows by repeating the lines he heard. In other words, he had very restricted interests that he liked to bring up again and again. In his own words, “….I experienced some odd behavior, such as staring at the television, repeating lines from television shows over and over, and expressing random obsessions.” As far as deficits of social communication are concerned, Joshua had a speech delay. He wasn’t mute, but he was also behind most of his peers in speech development.
On its own, Autism is known as a sort of developmental restrictor. According to the National Autism Association, in most situations Autism is apparent before the age of three. It is the easiest to catch at this age because so much is going on developmentally. Young children are learning new skills and interacting with what is around them. When they don’t interact or make any progress socially, it tends to stand out. Children may not speak, or they can only focus on certain things. Males are four times more likely to be diagnosed than girls, and of those diagnosed, 40% of children do not speak. The families of children with offspring can have a lot to do with their diagnosis, since Autism can be very easily passed down from parents to children. But the likelihood of a child having Autism is also dependent on environment. That is, complications while the child is still in the womb.
There are several therapy treatment options available for those affected by Autism. The different sessions can be led by therapists or teachers in some cases. Sessions can focus on developing social skills, motor skills, and academic skills. Aside from therapy, there are some medicinal options. However, they are not meant to treat the Autism as much as they are to stop the effects of it. The medicines help to stop any habits that might cause harm to themselves or others.
The long term effects of Autism are varied. Some of those affected may develop and grow their abilities well enough that they no longer fall on the spectrum to be deemed Autistic. Others are able to function just well enough that they can live independently. In certain cases, however, the effects of Autism may become more prominent in adulthood. In the case of Joshua Dushack, his symptoms did not all go away. He still has the habits of repeating lines but he has more control of it and can use it in his career. He can use it in speaking out about Autism. On the topic of long term effects, there was a quote by Dr. Temple Grandin used to describe that not everyone with Autism is on the same level. He said, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”
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