How Much Do You Know About Autism?

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autism

Autism affects 1 in every 68 children according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s a common neurodevelopmental disability that has no cure. It affects 4.5 more boys than it does girls.

What Is Autism?

what is autism

Autism and Autism Spectrum Disease are both terms that describe a lifelong disability in brain development. It’s a spectrum disease which means although there are common difficulties that autistic people face, autism affects people in varying degrees. Each person experiences autism differently. It is usually diagnosed within the first two years of a child’s life.  It causes significant difficulties in social communication and behavior. Autistic people look no different than non-autistic people. They learn, interact, communicate, and behave different the other people, but that doesn’t mean they are stupid.  They usually have average or above average intelligence. 1 in 10 of autistic people have savant syndrome.

How Do Autistic People See The World?

How Autistic People See The World
On the right is where a non-autistic person focuses when looking at the image; on the left is where an autistic person focuses.

Autism affects how people see the world and communicate with others. Some autistic people say the world is overwhelming. They describe it to be a confusing mass of faces, events and places.
A research by the National University of Singapore backed up previous research that shows that autism people are less attracted to faces than people without autism. They also showed that autistic people tended to focus on the center of an image no matter what the content. Autistic people are more drawn to objects that stood out due to contrast and such.

That’s just they way they see images; however, autism is way more. Some autistic people have sensory sensitivity, which means are more aware of their sight, hearing, taste, sense, and smell than most people. What is just an annoying noise to you could be painful for them. Here is a great demonstration video made by the National Autistic society.

What Causes Autism?

what causes autism?

We still haven’t found an exact cause for autism. Scientists believe it’s not just one factor causing autism but a group of factors; genetic, biologic, and environmental. What lead to thinking of a genetic cause is the fact that identical twins are more likely to be both affected than fraternal twins. Researchers have found a link between several abnormal genes and autism. Parents with a child with autism have a 20% increased risk to have another child with autism.

Some environmental causes are taking the prescription drugs valproic acid and thalidomide during pregnancy. Being born to older parents can also increase the risk of autism. There is evidence that the critical period for developing autism is during or immediately after birth. A lack of oxygen to the brain during birth can lead to autism. There are no links between vaccines and autism.

How Do Autistic Children Behave?

autism-stacking-cans_2nd_editAutistic children ignore objects when somebody points at it. They stack up items or arrange them in lines, and aren’t interested in imaginative games. Those with autism hate change and prefer repetitive actions. They avoid eye contact (see why here) and dislike crowds. Autistic people tend to repeat sentences or words. They also have difficulty relating to other people’s feelings. This is because the autistic theory of mind. They do not understand that people have their own thoughts, plans, and views. They think that everyone thinks how they do and knows what they know.

How Is Autism Treated?

Reach out to children with autism.
Reach out to children with autism.

As I said before, autism affects people differently. So there is not one way to treat it, and there is no cure. Autism is for life. Treatment can improve child development. Early diagnosis can lead to more effective treatment. Autistic people may take medicine or therapy or both. Medications can help with high energy levels, inability to focus, and depressions. Common types of therapy are speech therapy, occupational therapy, and sensory integration therapy.

The Autism Activists

The Autism Awareness sign.
The Autism Awareness sign.

The autism community is divided in to two groups: the autism rights movement and the autism cure movement.

The autism rights movement says autism should be seen as a different way of functioning, not a disease that needs to be cured. They encourage the creation of social networks and events where autistics can socialize on their own terms. They think autistic people should be recognized as a minority group.

The autism cure movement encourages the research of the causes of autism that can end up in finding a cure.  Their primary goal is to find a way to prevent and cure autism. They believe autistic people would be better off if they weren’t autistic.

Autistics’ Brains Are Wired Differently

Scientists have discovered that autistics’ have more synapses (places where neurons connect) in their brain. In the Columbia University in New York, scientists believe that the extra synapses are due to a lack of pruning that typically occurs in early life. This discovery helps understand the condition and creates hope for finding a treatment.

According to a study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, people with autism have a larger than normal capacity for processing information even from fast presentations and are better able to detect information defined as ‘critical’.