I first met Thomas many years ago when my now teen-age son was diagnosed with autism. Thomas is an incredible individual who has overcome so many of the challenges associated with having an autism spectrum disorder. Thomas is a published writer, lecturer, poet, and has even been on Oprah. Always candid, always forthright, Thomas is a tremendous advocate for parents and caregivers as well as for those who are on the autism spectrum. Every time I talk to Thomas I gain a greater insight as to the struggles associated with autism as well as the great potential of each individual given this diagnosis. I am honored to be granted this interview with Thomas. I hope that you will gain as much enlightenment as I have from his shared experiences and words.
I now introduce to you, Thomas McKean.
Thomas is also the author of "Soon Will Come the Light: A View From Inside the Autism Puzzle" and "Light On the Horizon: A Deeper View From Inside the Autism Puzzle"
How have things changed with regard to how autism is viewed from when you were a child?
Things have definitely changed. Autism is better understood. Or at the very least it is more accepted. The public is far more aware of autism, there are a lot more therapies (not all of them valid, unfortunately), and we have an autism awareness month in April, which I personally had a part in creating.Children are being diagnosed much earlier than when I was young. This is good because early intervention is the best therapy for autism. I wasn't diagnosed untilI was 14 (this was in the 70's and that was common back then), and by then a lot of opportunity had already come and gone.
But the changes aren't all good. Autism is far more prevalent nowadays. Back when I was with the ASA in the early and mid nineties, it was 1 in 20 some thousand. The latest stats I have heard are 1 in 150.
There are many more debates now as well. Is autism genetic? Environmental? Is it caused by vaccines? The vaccine debate is particularly difficult because it has been proven and disproven so many times that there is no way to reallyknow what to believe. So people form an opinion and stick with it, right or wrong. This has led to fights and hard feelings and the end of relationships.
What was your childhood like? Did your family understand autism?