Awareness and understanding of autism have been steadily improving over the past several years. Groups such as the Organization for Autism Research coordinate events to educate people of all ages about autism and use donations to continue research about autism. This organization also offers resources such as scholarships and employment opportunities for adults with autism and gives self-advocates a platform to speak about their experiences.
Although organizations like these do a great job of educating people about autism, there is still a lot of work to be done. Research must continue before we can fully understand autism, but even with the information already available, many people still have misconceptions and questions about it.
1. What is Autism Anyway?
The Centers for Disease Control refers to autism, or autism spectrum disorder, as “a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.” The autism spectrum includes a wide range of various symptoms, but people on the autism spectrum typically tend to think, communicate, learn, and behave differently than others.
Autism was first recognized in 1943 by Dr. Leo Kanner when he reported on eleven children who all showed similar symptoms of being uninterested in people, but rather highly interested in their environment. There is no single known cause for autism, but research done by various scientists today have proven that it’s a genetically based condition.
2. Symptoms of Autism: They Vary
People need to understand that autism is on a spectrum, and not every person with autism will have the same symptoms. People with mild autism, which used to be referred to as Asperger’s syndrome, may go undiagnosed for years, whereas others on the autism spectrum may be nonverbal or have significant cognitive impairment. While these are some common signs, this is by no means a comprehensive list or representative of everyone on the spectrum.
Common Symptoms in Infants and Young Children
Common Symptoms in Adolescents and Teenagers
3. Mental Illness Goes Hand-in-Hand with Autism.
It’s fairly common that those who fall somewhere on the autism spectrum often deal with other challenges or mental illness. Symptoms of autism such as feeling uncomfortable in new places or interacting with others may cause anxiety disorders. Sometimes when people with autism notice how they’re different from others around them and feel unable to communicate, they can feel isolated and depressed. Along with anxiety and depression, other challenges people with autism might encounter include eating disorders, aggressive behavior, insomnia, or other difficulties with sleeping.
4. Many Myths Still Surround Autism.
While the general public knows more about autism than they did ten years ago, there are still misconceptions that people believe. A few myths about autism include:
5. Parental Support is Just As Important As Professional Support.
Noticing early signs of autism is extremely beneficial for both you and your child. If you recognize any symptoms of autistic behavior in your infant or toddler, it’s recommended to seek a professional diagnosis. Children can be diagnosed accurately at just 18 months of age, and this early intervention can be the key in helping children develop communication skills and manage stressors.
However, while professional guidance is important, you must never underestimate the importance of supporting your child and helping him to better understand his symptoms. The most important thing for parents to remember is to be open-minded to how their child communicates. Listen to phrases your child may repeat, or focus on nonverbal cues, and then communicate in their preferred way. This can lessen confusion and misunderstanding, and can bring you and your child closer together.
If your child has been diagnosed with autism and you’re unsure of where to turn, Oakville Wellness Center has several resources available. If your child has delayed speech or trouble communicating, it can be helpful to contact a speech-language pathologist.
If your child is experiencing a major life change, such as entering school, or you fear they might be struggling with an underlying mental illness, there are resources to help your child.
By: Dr. Syras Derksen