Autism is a childhood condition that always seems to be surrounded by a cloud of myths and misconceptions.
Myths such as it is caused by vaccination, bad parenting, or a poor diet. Misconceptions that children with autism can’t learn, don’t want to make friends, or don’t feel emotions. Not one of those is true.
Nowadays, autism is referred to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which recognizes the fact that there is not just one type of autism, but rather a broad range of conditions characterized by difficulty with social interaction and communication coupled with restricted or repetitive patterns of thought and behavior. Asperger Syndrome is also now diagnosed as ASD.
Indicators of ASD typically begin around the age of 2 or 3, although some children can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Boys are four times more likely to be affected as girls. Since criteria for diagnosing ASD were expanded in 2013, more and more kids are now being diagnosed with the disorder. But that is not a bad thing, as research has shown early intervention leads to more positive outcomes later in life.
No two people with ASD are alike. Each person has their own distinct set of strengths and challenges. Some are very high functioning and require little support to live independently. Others need assistance and supervision on a day-to-day basis.
Interventions and treatment no longer focus on trying to make children with ASD appear as “normal” as possible. Rather the emphasis is on trying to understand them as individuals; working with their strengths and interests to try and give them the best chance in life, in addition to supporting them with their challenges.
April is Autism Awareness Month. If you are not already familiar with ASD, educate yourself about it and volunteer or attend a local event. Spend some time with someone with ASD and get to know their world, and make sure anything you post or share on social media about ASD adds value and doesn’t perpetuate stereotypes. And if you have ASD, share your story to spread awareness. AUTISM: Always Unique, Totally Interesting, Sometimes Mysterious.
For more information about ASD, see here.