Autism: 10 Basic Facts You MOST Need To Know
Autism is a hot topic these days. It seems everyone knows SOMEONE who is affected by the disorder. But what is autism, anyway? Today we’re fortunate in that Laura Shumaker has agreed to share with us some of her own expertise in helping to explain more about autism and to help shed some light on some of the bigger misconceptions that are currently out there regarding Autism.
Here are 10 BASIC facts you need to know:
1) Autism is a neurological disorder; not a disease. It is a broad spectrum disorder, meaning that people with autism can be a little autistic or very autistic. Thus, it is possible to be bright, verbal, and autistic as well as mentally retarded, non-verbal and autistic.
2) All individuals with autism spectrum disorders share deficits to some degree in three areas: social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors or interests. In addition, many have unusual responses to sensory experiences, such as certain sounds or the way objects look.
3) No one is sure what causes autism. Theories range from mercury in infant vaccines (NOT TRUE!! ) to genetics to the age of the parents to almost everything else. At present, most researchers think autism is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors – and it’s quite possible that different people’s symptoms have different causes.
4) The doctor who first came up with the idea that vaccines cause autism has been formally discredited (see this story). There is NO solid evidence based studies that indicate that vaccines cause autism.
5) Many think that individuals with autism are all alike. Nothing could be further from the truth! “They” are not all alike. Individuals with autism have unique challenges, quirks, and interests. People with autism can be hard to figure out. Don’t be afraid to ask their parents or caretakers questions.
6) There is no cure for autism as yet, but autism is treatable, and it important for parents to get a diagnosis as early as possible.
7) Early intervention treatment programs have helped young children have better outcomes as they grow older, but treatment should continue through the lifespan! At any age, individuals with autism can progress.
8) Scientists would like to find out what causes autism, how to treat it and how to cure it! Some of the most exciting research has to do with the genetics of autism and the impact of the environment and immunology of autism cases. Follow this link to learn about the research at the MIND Institute at UC Davis.
9) Autism Spectrum Disorders generally fall into the categories bellow::
- Autistic disorder. This is what most people think of when they hear the word “autism.” It refers to problems with social interactions, communication, and imaginative play in children younger than 3 years.
- Asperger syndrome. These children don’t have a problem with language — in fact, they tend to score in the average or above-average range on intelligence tests. But they have the same social problems and limited scope of interests as children with autistic disorder.
- Pervasive developmental disorder or PDD — also known as atypical autism. This is a kind of catchall category for children who have some autistic problems but who don’t fit into other categories.
- Rett syndrome. Known to occur only in girls, children with Rett syndrome begin to develop normally. Then they begin to lose their communication and social skills. Beginning at the age of 1 to 4 years, repetitive hand movements replace purposeful use of the hands.
- Childhood disintegrative disorder. These children develop normally for at least two years, and then lose some or most of their communication and social skills.
10) While no two individuals with autism behave in the same manner, most are socially awkward (or in MY son’s case-socially inept!). The hallmark feature of ASD is impaired social interaction. A child’s primary caregivers are usually the first to notice signs of ASD. As early as infancy, a baby with ASD may be unresponsive to people or focus intently on one item to the exclusion of others for long periods of time. A child with ASD may appear to develop normally and then withdraw and become indifferent to social engagement.
If you want to know more about an individual with autism in your life, their parents would be more than happy to answer your questions. Just ask!
Laura Shumaker is the author of A Regular Guy: Growing Up With Autism, a memoir about raising her autistic son, Matthew, to young adulthood. She is a regular contributor to NPR Perspectives and a columnist for www.5minutesforspecialneeds.com and an autism bloggers for the San Francisco Chronicle. Laura’s essays have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Contra Costa Times, the East Bay Monthly, The Autism Advocate, on cnn.com, A Cup of Comfort, and Voices of Autism among others. Laura speaks regularly to schools, book and disability groups and lives in Lafayette, California with her husband, Peter, and her three sons.Posted on Friday, February 26th, 2010 Both comments and pings are currently closed.