Massage & Bodywork

JANUARY | FEBRUARY 2022

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L i s te n to T h e A B M P Po d c a s t a t a b m p.co m /p o d c a s t s o r w h e reve r yo u a cce s s yo u r favo r i te p o d c a s t s 57 When talking about autism in the health- care context, it is often automatically perceived as a condition to be treated or cured. This is a prevalent attitude among the general public and health-care professionals alike; yet, according to many in the autistic community, they do not want to be cured or changed, they simply want awareness of and respect for their differences, and equal access to standard health care. The place of autistic people in society has been compared to the oppression experienced by other minority groups, so much so that they become "marginalized to the extent of occupying the social position of 'non-human' with the staggering consequences for social well-being that this implies." 1 In contrast to many other minority communities, autistic voices remain marginalized, whereby a medicalized, pathological understanding of autism persists in both wider society and health-care settings. This medicalization often serves as the very rationale for this marginalization, with suggestions from non-autistic circles that autistic people are not capable of judging their own situation. Not only is this grossly untrue, but it is actively harming people across the autism spectrum. While autistic self-advocacy is growing, prejudice and confusion regarding this community persists, resulting in poor health care and education options. Though these vary by country, it's safe to say that beyond specialist disciplines, very little information or guidance is out there for general health, holistic, or manual practitioners encountering autistic patients. Among a minority of integrative health practitioners, the mistaken perception persists that autism is related to vaccination (it has been exhaustively proven that it is not), and among wider medical circles, the notion that autism can somehow be prevented or "cured" continues to spark considerable controversy. The actual causes of autism are not known, but are considered to be a result of complex, multifactorial interactions between multiple genetic predispositions and environmental factors. 2 Many autistic individuals have openly expressed their aversion to the idea that one should even seek to prevent it, given that this suggests the world finds them undesirable and worthless, though disagreement is expressed by some parents of autistic children on the extreme end of the spectrum. KEY POINTS • Autism is a spectrum, and every individual on it may exhibit different traits. • Many autistic people do not see autism as a condition to be cured, but as an aspect of identity to be accepted and understood as an inherent part of who they are. • Autistic people are consistently underserved in the health-care context, with severe implications for their quality of life and life expectancy. • Integrative health care and massage specifically have shown promising evidence of reducing autistic anxiety, improving sensory integration difficulties, and assisting with developing coping mechanisms and increased quality of life. Author's note: Respecting the necessity that any discussion of autism should always include autistic voices, this article has been checked by two diagnosed autistic individuals before submission. Special thanks are due Mr. Paul Summers Young for his insight.

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