Zoom Autism Magazine Issue 6 - Page 56

KNOWING vs. NOT KNOWING Teaching Students to Accept and LOVE their Diagnosis By: Dr. Michael P. McManmon, Ed.D Recently diagnosed adolescents and young adults have shared that over the years before they knew about their Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Learning Difference (LD) diagnosis, they believed they were crazy, stupid, not good enough and numerous other extremely negative attributions. I drew some of these same conclusions about my own self as I have Asperger’s Syndrome and Sensory Processing Disorder. I needed to understand my clinical diagnosis and learn how to accept it. ZOOM Autism through Many Lenses stand individual idiosyncrasies, characteristics and personalities, making it hard to have positive social connections with others in school. The interactions of these emerging adults are often more negative and/or stressful than their interest in pursuing selfgrowth or change. This makes it hard for teachers to integrate individuals into an everyday classroom setting. Helping individuals understand their differences can ease this challenging task. “The classroom setting is an ideal place to work with adolescents and young adults as they begin or continue to understand their autism and/or learning differences diagnosis.” I can tell you from my own journey into acceptance that helping each individual student understand his or her diagnosis enables each person to talk about it, read about it, ask questions, do research and then identify with a group of similar people. This, in turn, leads each one to feeling more hopeful and courageous about getting help, asking for accommodations, and/or gaining more information in the various learning environments they will encounter. Adolescents and young adults with ASD or LD have different thinking patterns and brain processing functions – especially in the area of social competencies/social actions. These differences often compromise the ability to under- 56 Photo: CIP Staff A s individuals plan for success in school, having an understanding of who they are, why they are different, and how to accept, work with and learn to love these differences is critical. The classroom setting is an ideal place to work with adolescents and young adults as they begin or continue to understand their autism and/or learning differences diagnosis because, when young men and women don’t know what makes them different, they can develop negative images about themselves. If no one is talking about their differences, they may come to the conclusion that it’s a big bad secret. Exactly how can knowing about one’s diagnosis help? Here are some insights into the issue of knowing vs. not knowing about an individual clinical diagnosis gleaned from working with many students over the years. KNOWING VS. NOT KNOWING • Knowing helps individuals with an ASD or LD diagnosis feel proud of who they are. • Knowing helps adolescents and young adults plan their lives in a realistic manner. ZOOM Autism through Many Lenses 57