WGXA's Healthy Living: Local News
Healthy Living: Living With Adult Autism
Story Updated: Apr 24, 2012
Unlocking the keys to the mystery behind rising autism rates has dominated headlines during autism awareness month.
In this Healthy Living Portia Lake will introduce you to a talented award winning musician who describes his journey from autistic child to autistic adult.
Working behind the scenes as a producer for some of MC Hammer’s biggest hits in the nineties, Michael Bucholtz felt like an outcast and always knew something was very different. “I was often told I was strange by the crew. People liked me. They said I was a great guy. But man you are weird,” Buckholtz says.
During those years of musical brilliance, Bucholtz rode the wave of his friend’s success, earning song writing credits for MC Hammer’s megahits “Too Legit to Quit” and “Gaining Momentum.” As Bucholtz pushed through feelings of rejection and two failed marriages, he ultimately reached out to his family for answers. Observant family members noticed over the years, Michael exhibited a pattern of behaviors that they could not understand or begin to comprehend. In 2008, an evaluation by a professional provided the answers to the lingering question.
Bucholtz was one of the faces of autism.
At the age of 42 Bucholtz received his official diagnosis. He was living with high functioning autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Bucholtz admits the answer provided some comfort in knowing he was not alone. “It answered a lot of questions about why. Once I had those questions answered, I felt like I could help people to understand what the process is that we go through. If I could help people understand that process, then there would be less fear.”
According to the world’s largest advocacy organization Autism Speaks, Autism is one of a group of disorders known as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). These conditions all have some of the same symptoms, but differ in terms of when the symptoms start, their severity, and the exact nature of the symptoms. People with autistic disorder usually have significant language delays, social and communication challenges, and unusual behaviors and interests.
New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revealed alarming numbers showing a 23% increase in autism spectrum cases from 2006 to 2008, and a 78% increase since 2002. The precise number of adults living with autism is hard to pinpoint because often times, other diagnoses may complicate an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis.
Much of the focus on autism has been on children, but there is still much research and information to be learned about the prevalence and causes of autism across the lifespan. For Bucholtz, the lack of information leads to daily frustrations.” The societal norms, the things that society does that are considered normal. People living with autism don't have a lot of those behaviors. We have to work very hard to blend into a society and work in a society that requires us to behave a certain way. It can be a challenge,” Buckholtz concludes.
Like Bucholtz, most people diagnosed on the autism spectrum exhibit stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms. Every day, Bucholtz fights the urge to rock back and forth rhythmically and struggles to maintain eye contact. “Sometimes it is only one or two things that I do. That may seem excessive to others, but to me, it keeps me buoyant. It keeps me functioning well; it keeps my emotions in check,” says Bucholtz.
Bucholtz admits that while he is very much like those unaffected by autism, there is one stark difference. “My life is different in that every day, I have to try to blend into a society that has created its own norms. In society, you don't rock back and forth in your chair all the time. I can't do that. It is something I used to do. I try very hard to not do it,” he says.
Clearing up misconceptions and misinformation surrounding autism propelled Bucholtz to do something to help families affected by autism. He started an organization called Aid for Autistic Children Foundation. The nonprofit group assists families by freeing them from the mountain of debt accumulated from treatments and unreimbursed medical care. It goes a step further and supports them in their efforts to seek the best treatments and education for their children. It’s an effort that earned him the respect and accolades from former President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama.
“I am working really hard to dispel all the myths that are out there. That is something that I do every day. Helping people to see that people living with autism are just like everybody else.”
For more information on the Aid for Autistic Children Foundation, visit www.aacfinc.org