By : Ana Garcia Rios
A sixteen year old girl, named Andrea, studying electrical engineering with a very high point average at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez (UPRM). But the interesting part of her story is that she has autism, a complex neurobehavioral disorder characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior. Andrea has the Asperger’s syndrome, which is a peculiar disorder because it has the characteristics of an autistic person but in this cases the child develops more skills, they tend to score in the average or above average on intelligence tests.
Andrea was diagnosed with autism when she was little. The average age to detect autism in a child is between the ages of 2 to 3, but it can be identified when the child is just a baby, 18 months old.
Andrea is a very brilliant girl with big ambitions for her future, but people underestimate her capability because of her disorder. Her case is really surprising. In high school she was an honor student and even one of the best grades of her class. Her talents stand out, she plays the guitar (acoustic and electric), piano, flute and she recently learned how to ride the unicycle. Her biggest dream is to live in Europe, she wanted to go study there but her family wouldn’t let her because they’re afraid.
Andrea’s mother worries for her but Andrea wants her mother to see that she can be an independent young girl and that her disorder won’t stop her from doing that things that she really desires. Her family didn’t even wanted her to go study in the UPRM because of their concern but she convinced them and they had to let her go, she and her family lives in the other side of Puerto Rico, Caguas. “Without my family in the beginning I felt strange and lonely but after a couple of months here I learned to get used to the idea that I’m starting a new life, where I’m going to increase my knowledge. Also I want to let the people see that I can do more things than I’m expected to do. I don’t want to let the people know that I have autism because I just want to be treated like a normal person, I don’t want to be treated differently or special” said Andrea.
She ‘s a very independent and sociable girl, at first shy but once she gets to know the person she opens to them. For many people the most rare is that she doesn’t really have any problem with social interactions because of what the people think of autism. Most person think that all children with autism have the same characteristics that would be: the lack of social interactions, but what most of them don’t know is that there are different types of autism and that not all of them have the same characteristics.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAC) some of the different types of autism disorder include:
- Autistic disorder- children have problems with social interactions, communications and imaginative play in children younger than 3 years old.
- Asperger’s syndrome- children don’t have problems with language, they score in the average or above range on intelligence tests. They have some problems with social interactions.
- Persuasive Developmental Disorder- children have some autistic behaviors.
- Rett Syndrome- occurs mainly in girls, they begin to develop normally then begin to lose their communication. At the age of 1 to 4 they begin making hand movements.
- Childhood Disintegrative Disorder- children develop normally until they are 2 years old, then they lose communication and social skills.
Autistic children, especially the ones with Asperger’s Syndrome, may have problems in certain areas like the ability to communicate and relate but some develop skills in other areas like drawing, music, math problems and memorizing. For this reason many scientist believe that’s why the children with this particular disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, tend to get higher on nonverbal tests.
The autism doesn’t have a specific reason but according to some research many scientist believe that it has to do with genetic problem.
Others think that it can be developed while the baby is still in the uterus depending of the care of the mother such as drinking alcohol or smoking during the pregnancy.
To these days there is no cure for autism. There are therapy for the children with autism but it is according to the level and type of autism and it is for some characteristics, like the problem with language and the lack of social interactions.
People tend to judge autistic persons because they don’t really know about it. People don’t have enough information about this disorder and just think that all autistics have the same characteristics. Autism is not a disease, it is a neurobehavioral disorder. Every kid has a story, like Andrea an amazingly brilliant girl fulfilling her dreams to become a professional all on her own. Andrea is proud of what she has accomplished so far and expects to keep on with her dedication and hard work in college and in her bright future.