Is autism a disability? The short answer to that question is yes. Autism is a disability.
But the conversation doesn’t stop there. In fact, there’s so much more to this conversation that we need to consider than just the disability label.
More specifically, autism is what’s referred to as a developmental disability.
And what’s a developmental disability? The term has a few nuances but refers to a condition that affects one’s life-long development.
Autism is not considered a birth defect nor is it a learning disability. Birth defects apply more to observable abnormalities in bodily structures. A learning disability refers to difficulties in learning unrelated to intelligence or motivation.
So what’s the definition of autism? Well, the official diagnostic term is Autism Spectrum Disorder, also known as ASD.
People with ASD have a condition where a compromise occurs in the brain’s development. As a result, individuals with autism typically have challenges in a few areas. These include difficulty with communication, social interaction, and behavioral challenges.
Autism affects approximately 1 in 60 children, mostly boys.
It doesn’t take a long time to recognize autistic symptoms. In fact, you can recognize these symptoms before a child reaches the age of 2 years.
The cause of autism is unknown. Though some suggest that vaccines cause autism, there is no conclusive evidence to substantiate that claim.
So what if autism is a disability?
So we’ve answered the question “Is autism a disability?” And if it is, then what? What does this mean? Well here are 2 important things you should know. First, know that “disability” doesn’t mean “inability.” Secondly, you should know that advocacy, accommodations, and assistance are readily available.
Disability doesn’t mean Inability
Somehow our culture has arrived at a very skewed understanding of persons with autism. Unfortunately, when discussing disabilities, an over-emphasis is often on what these individuals can’t do. In the minds of some, disability equals inability.
However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is, there are countless examples of persons with disabilities making significant accomplishments. And not only this, the variety of fields where they are making an impact is nothing short of amazing! Some of these I included in a previous post found here.
Some of these include persons such as Susan Boyle, Dan Akroyd, and Noah Britton. These individuals have all had made significant social contributions, yet in their own unique way. This demonstrates that individuals with disabilities are more than capable!
So one of the more helpful ways to grasp the meaning of a disability is to understand it as a differing ability. In other words, it’s not that these individuals are incapable. It’s more so that they have a different way of accomplishing the task at hand. So disability does NOT equal inability.
Advocacy, Accommodations, and Assistance
For parents with autistic children, the challenges are numerous. And because these individuals have a disability, this usually means that they are in many ways vulnerable. This vulnerability heightens the need for advocacy, accommodations, and assistance.
It’s no secret that too often the abilities of autistic individuals are overlooked. And this isn’t just a local or nationwide phenomenon. This is pervasive, regardless of where you live. So advocacy for special needs individuals is key, and this looks a bit different in each country.
In the US, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the major advocacy initiative. The ADA affirms that autistic individuals have value, and are a benefit to society.
Under ADA, individuals with autism are ensured the same opportunities that others have to take part in their community. This includes access to a host of things including jobs, education, housing, and transportation.
Accommodations are another important component of what the ADA addresses. These are adjustments entities make for persons with different abilities or learning styles.
Accommodations could include things such:
- Vocational supports (computer equipment or software)
- Physical supports (Work-space or seating adjustments)
- Transportation (vehicle-related)
- Mobility supports (walkway or parking adjustments)
- Communication supports
- Sensory supports (lighting or temperature-related)
- Social supports (interpersonal interactions)
This is a short list, but there are a plethora of accommodations that apply for a person with special needs.
Finally, know that assistance is available to help you navigate autism successfully. There are a number of different therapy options that you can take advantage of. The type of therapy you need would depend on the challenges your child displays.
Yes, it can be overwhelming to know how to get started with therapy for your autistic child. And not only that, most parents question if they are parenting effectively and are desperate for guidance. Parents want the assurance that they are leading their loved one in the right direction.
And if you’re one of those parents, I’ve prepared a resource that provides that kind of help. In my eBook “Navigating Autism Spectrum Disorder,” I cover the essentials of how to get started with therapy. But beyond that, I also cover the core traits that all effective parents have, and how you can develop those characteristics.
This resource will equip you for the challenges that come along the autism journey. Take advantage of this opportunity NOW! Purchase here.
Is Autism a disability for taxes?
This last question is one that needs specialized attention. I’ve heard of tax breaks for situations such as:
- Medical expenses
- Childcare expenses while caregiver works and
- Savings for education
However, you’ll need to contact a tax professional and the IRS to get the specific answers suited to your situation. The reason is, there are so many severity levels of one’s disability. Benefits for adults and children differ. And given that there are different benefits by state under social security, the answer will vary. So for anything conclusive, you’ll need to get professional advice to address your specific family dynamic.
In conclusion, having a disability in no way, shape or form means inability. It’s simply a different ability. Nothing more, nothing less. Let the examples of those who’ve made contributions be an example. Secondly, advocacy, accommodations, and assistance opportunities are available for those with disabilities. So seek out the support you need. And wherever possible, take advantage of what you have access to!
A.D. Daisley holds a Masters Degree from the University of Central Florida and has been working in the field as a Behavior Analyst since 2005. He has provided services to children and adults with varying diagnoses such as autism, mental retardation, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). His scope of experience also includes coordinating therapy to individuals and families in conjunction with other supports including School Teachers, Adult Day Training Facility Staff (ADT’s) and Speech/Occupational therapists. He is the Director and Behavior Analyst at Alternative Outcomes since 2007. A.D is also the Director of Creátre, a non-profit organization that uses the arts for the purpose of skill training, outreach and to display community leadership.