By Dylan Gallagher ’19
April was Autism Awareness Month, so it is a perfect time to learn more about about the Autism Spectrum Disorder..
Autism Spectrum Disorder was first diagnosed by Leo Kanner in 1943. While more has been learned about this disorder since then, society largely does not understand what the disorder means and how it affects those with it. What is autism and how common is it? What can we as a society do to support those with it?
Autism is a neurodevelopmental social disorder and those affected by it range on a spectrum from high-functioning individuals to those with severe cases. Not much is known scientifically about this disorder and how the brains of people on the spectrum actually work with the disorder. It is not a curable condition, but children and adults affected with it can get help with social skills and other behavioral issues.
According to the organization Autism Speaks, boys are five times more likely to have autism than girls. However, this number may be inaccurate because girls are underdiagnosed and for the longest time it was believed that they could not have it. One in 68 people are diagnosed with it; to be more specific, it is one in 42 for boys and one in 26 for girls who are autistic. Although underdiagnosis is a major problem among girls, it is still a problem regardless of gender. This happens because not many people know what it is and how to recognize the signs of autism.
The signs can be divided into three categories: social interaction issues, sensory sensitivity, and behavioral issues. Studies have shown that a person with autism might tend to take things literally. As a result, they can miss social cues, sarcasm, or even jokes. Due to its psychological and social importance, many do not like being touched by others. Handshakes, pats on the back, and hugs can cause discomfort. Lack of or trouble with keeping eye contact is a very common sign.The final social issue is the lack of the ability to interpret people’s emotions either through facial expressions or by tone of voice. Those with Autism Spectrum Disorder may be more sensitive to sensory items such as lights, sounds, noises, smells, colors, or textures. The final category, which deals with behavioral issues, is often the most obvious. In times when autistic people, especially children, do not know how to deal with their feelings, tantrums or selective mutism can result.
These signs of autism can help with diagnosis of people. It is best to get early intervention while the child’s brain is still developing rather than as an adult. How can you guide someone in your life to get help? Often doctors or psychiatrists are the ones to go to for this. It can be a long process, but supporting your loved one and being patient is the best thing you can do.
After diagnosis there are some treatment options. These include social classes, therapy, speech therapy, or receiving an aid for school. By treatment, it is meant as a gradual process of helping the person living with autism adjust to life and to improve social interaction. Every case of autism is different, and everyone needs different amounts of help.
Hopefully, as more gain more knowledge about this social disorder, people will become more understanding of those affected by it.