Today, more and more people are diagnosed on the autistic spectrum. According to statnews.com, “CDC researchers reported that autism rates in the United States increased from 1 in 150 children in 2000 to 1 in 54 in 2016, and the rate now stands at 1 in 44 children [as of 2018].” But are we really more autistic than before? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, autism “is a neurological and developmental disorder that affects how people interact with others, communicate, learn, and behave.” It therefore makes sense that if communication becomes more demanding, but people’s ability to communicate does not improve, more people will be diagnosed with autism.
The level of connectedness in all our engagements and on all levels has been growing exponentially for decades. Today, you really cannot get away from society. You cannot isolate yourself because your mobile phone is always with you, and people can reach you not only via phone, but also by texting, video chats, social media, and countless other ways. And if you try to turn off your phone for even one day, you will probably find that you are hooked, and isolation is an unachievable fantasy.
In the 1970s, for example, people’s communication needs were very different than they are today. A regular person went to work in the morning, came back in the afternoon, ate something, read the newspaper, watched TV and went to sleep. Communication skills did not need to be as developed as they need to be today because communication was not as intricate and demanding. Today, people are communicating all the time, with multiple people, and on multiple platforms, especially the younger generation. These demands expose their inadequate communication skills, causing them to be diagnosed on the autistic spectrum.
Additionally, people’s growing self-absorption makes it even more difficult for them to communicate, an added challenge that did not trouble people in the second half of the previous century, who were clearly not as narcissistic as today’s youngsters.
Because demands have changed, people should acquire the appropriate skills to meet them. If previously, the education system could suffice with imparting information, today, information is the least of our problems. Anyone can learn anything online more easily and quickly than a single teacher can teach in a physical classroom.
Rather, the main problem today is communication between people; it is dysfunctional on every level and stands behind people’s most daunting problems. Substance abuse, depression, violence, bullying and abuse, all those very serious problems do not stem from lack of knowledge, but from inadequate communication skills. If we want to “treat” autism, we need to address our disconnection from each other, our inability to connect and communicate positively and constructively.