Autism Awareness

Written by: Roshaneh Imran 

“Autism isn’t a disability, it’s a different ability”- Stuart Duncaz

What is autism?

Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder is a difference in the way an individual’s brain develops.   In other words, one’s brain would process information differently compared to someone who isn’t autistic, or neurotypical. People diagnosed with autism may have trouble with adjusting to change, engaging in conversation with others, or dealing with loud noises or bright lights. The National Autism Spectrum Disorder Surveillance System (NASS) estimates that about 1 in 66 Canadian children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism is widely known, but not widely understood. Autism awareness has been growing in recent years, however, stereotypes and misconceptions still exist and it is important to debunk these when we encounter them. 

What Causes Autism?

While the cause of autism is unknown, research suggests that genes can act together with environmental influences to cause ASD. Although scientists are still trying to understand why some people develop autism and others don’t, some risk factors include having a sibling with ASD, having older parents, and having certain genetic conditions such as Down syndrome and Rett syndrome are more likely to have ASD.

Common Stereotypes and Misconceptions about Autism

  1. Autism is temporary.
  2. Autism goes away in adulthood.
  3. Autism is contagious.
  4. Autism is caused by vaccines.
  5. Autism is an illness or disease.
  6. Autistic people have something wrong with them that needs to be fixed.

Autism is a lifelong condition. In other words, autistic children grow up to be autistic adults. However, signs of autism start during childhood. As mentioned above, autism doesn’t have a cause. Autism isn’t a disease or illness such as diabetes or asthma.  Many people with autism embrace their condition. The way they see it, it’s part of who they are.

How is Autism Diagnosed?

Autism is diagnosed by examining an individual’s behaviour and development. ASD can usually be diagnosed by the age of two. It is important for people who are concerned to seek out assessment as soon as possible so that a diagnosis can be made, and treatment can begin. Sometimes, autism can occur with other conditions, so an evaluation can include blood tests and/or hearing tests. 

Signs and Symptoms of Autism

Autistic people have difficulty with social skills. Also, people with autism may have restricted interests, and show repetitive behaviours. The list below gives some examples of the types of behaviours that are seen in people diagnosed with ASD. Not all people with ASD will show all of these behaviours, but some will show several.

  • Making little eye contact
  • Having difficulty engaging in conversation with others 
  • Having facial expressions, that do not match what is being said
  • Having an unusual tone of voice 
  • Having trouble understanding another person’s point of view
  • repeating words or phrases, this is called echolalia
  • Having overly focused interests, such as with moving objects
  • Having trouble adjusting to change 
  • Being more or less sensitive than neurotypical people to light or noise

Although autistic people can experience challenges, they may also have many strengths. These strengths include but are not limited to retaining information for long periods, being strong visual and auditory learners and excelling in math, science, music, or art.

How Can We Make Autistic People Feel Accepted and Included?

Most people have good intentions when they try to include autistic individuals in their social interactions and conversations. However, sometimes they may unintentionally do things that may embarrass the person. Here are some tips on how to include autistic individuals so they feel welcome: 

  1. Take the time to learn about autism.
  2. Treat them the way you would treat any other person.
  3. Accept what makes them different.

Sources

https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-causes-autism
https://geekclubbooks.com/autism-myths/

NIMH » Autism Spectrum Disorder

https://www.autismontario.com/about-autism
Thomson, KarrieAutism Awareness