AUTISM and the Hurtful Misuse/Abuse of LABELS

As Autism Awareness Month (April) draws to an end, the topic of labels become prominent in my mind.  I’ve had yet another horrible experience with audiologists. My son is congenitally Deafblind, a term I don’t always use because of people’s preconceived stereotypes about what Deafblind means.

Audiologists often fail to understand the diverse community of people they serve. The reason – nearly all accredited audiology courses in th US have no requirement to learn about Deaf culture, American Sign Language, or Deafblindness. Autism is a prevelant diagnosis today, audiologists are usually somewhat familiar with Autism. SOMEWHAT FAMILIAR is a relative term.

Parents should know audiologists are by no means qualified to make an autism diagnosis, nor to apply the label to a child with a complex medical history.

Parents should also be aware that use of the autism label in the audiological setting is ill-advised. The reason – audiologists often fail to recognize hearing loss, auditory processing disorders, auditory neuropathy, Deafness (as in respect to language acquisition), blindness – particularly cortical visual impairment (the fastest growing cause of blindness), Deafblindness, as well as the combined effect of multiple sensory impatient and/or multiple handicaps, when a child is labeled autistic.

Deaf-blindness is a low incidence disability and within this very small group of children there is great variability. Many children who are deaf-blind have some usable vision and/or hearing. The majority of children who are deaf-blind also have additional physical, medical and/or cognitive problems. Children are considered to be deaf-blind when the combination of their hearing and vision loss causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that they require significant and unique adaptations in their educational programs.

Autism and Deafblindness are two different and unique conditions.

Why Deaf-Blindness and Autism Can Look So Much Alike

 For example Autism does not cause abnormal findings on a Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER or ABR.)

The ABR is used for newborn hearing screening, auditory threshold estimation, intraoperative monitoring, determining hearing loss type and degree, and auditory nerve and brainstem lesion detection.

Hearing loss alone (with no other medical, behavioral, or social issues) significantly impacts language acquisition. A child with a mild hearing loss can miss 25-50% of spoken language in the classroom.

What Is Language? What Is Speech? 

What are the effects of different types of hearing loss?

What is hearing ability?

The current DSM-V diagnostic criteria for autism requires specification of:

With or without accompanying intellectual impairment

With or without accompanying language impairment

Associated with a known medical or genetic condition or environmental factor

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Images Courtesy of:

I am not Autism – dnagengaCC-BY-NC-SA 2.0 Generic

see past labels – Krissy Venosdale – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I don’t know.” – Krissy Venosdale – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Creative Commons License
Love Support Educate Advocate Accept by Liana Seneca is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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