The Mystery of Autism

What Is Autism? or Autism Spectrum Disorders?  What Are Some of The Myths About Autism?

There are many mysteries of what Autism is or how does one get Autism.  Some light has been shed on the subject by Hollywood with movies like “Mozart and The Whale”,” I Am Sam”, “The Other Sister”, “Rain Man” and “Miracle Run”.  However, one needs to keep in mind, that there is a deeper understanding that has to be investigated, in order to obtain the full picture about Autism.

Typically, Autism is referred to as Autistic Spectrum Disorder, because it effects every person differently and symptoms can be varied.  Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Also, its associated behaviors have been estimated to occur in as many as 1 in 50 individuals (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2012).  Both children and adults with Autism typically show difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communications, social interactions, and leisure or play activities.  The disorder makes it hard for them to communicate with others and relate to the outside world.  In some cases, aggressive and/or self-injurious behavior may be present.  The report, “Changes in Prevalence of Parent-Reported Autism Spectrum Disorder in School-Aged Children: 2007 to 2011-2012” is available http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr065.pdf.

Currently, Autism is believed to affect boys four times more often than it affects girls. In the United States, more than 1,500,000 individuals live with Autism, making it more prevalent than Down’s Syndrome, childhood diabetes, and childhood cancer combined.  Autism is considered a spectrum disorder because the number and intensity of the symptoms may vary widely. Those severely affected are often withdrawn, dependent on others, and suffer from cognitive impairments. Those with less severe cases are often of above-average intelligence and independent, yet lack in social-communication skills.

Autism falls under the umbrella of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD).  The five disorders under PDD are:  Classic Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD), and Rett Syndrome.

Persons with Autism may exhibit repeated body movements like hand flapping, rocking, or spinning.  They may act or respond rather unusual to people or attachments to objects and resistance to changes in routines.  Individuals may also experience sensitivities in the five senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste.

Over one half million people in the U.S. today have autism or some form of Pervasive Developmental Disorder.  Its prevalence rate makes Autism one of the most common developmental disabilities.  Yet, most of the public, including many professionals in the medical, educational, and vocational fields, are still unaware of how Autism affects people and how they can effectively work with individuals with Autism.

Family income, lifestyle, and educational levels do not affect the chance of autism’s occurrence.

Here are the general 14 Signs Of Autism

  1. May avoid eye contact
  2. May prefer to be alone
  3. Echoes words or phrases
  4. Difficulty interacting with others
  5. Spins objects or self
  6. Insistence on sameness
  7. Inappropriate attachments to objects
  8. Inappropriate laughing or giggling
  9. May not want cuddling
  10. Difficulty in expressing needs; may use gestures
  11. Inappropriate response or no response to sound
  12. No real fear of dangers
  13. Apparent insensitivity to pain
  14. Sustained unusual or repetitive play’ uneven physical or verbal skills

Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum: A Parent’s Guide…For additional information, please go to our RESOURCES Page, or to find answers to other questions on Autism, please refer below.  (www.Amazon.com).  They have a wonderful collection of books that you can add to your in-home library.

Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum
From the award-winning author of Autism Spectrum Disorders, comes Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum, a complete guide to the cognitive, emotional, social, and physical needs of preteens and teenagers with autistic disorders, ranging from the relatively mild Asperger’s Syndrome to more severe ability impairment. Using clear examples, practical advice, and supportive insights, this book covers: Health risks such as seizures and depression; Treatments, therapies, and teaching strategies; Teaching skills to cope with puberty, self-care, and social skills; Teenage emotions, sexuality, appropriate relationships, and dating; Middle school, high school, and developing an Individual Educational Program; Preparing for life after high school.

Price: $10.95 USD

A Strange World – Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and PDD-NOS...
A Strange World is an intriguing and comprehensive guide to autistic spectrum disorders presented from a new scientific perspective. Delfos’s biopsychological model provides a strong theoretical analysis of the nature of autism and what problems it can cause. She offers practical advice on how to approach these problems from the various perspectives of autistic children, adolescents and adults, as well as parents and carers of autistic people. Balancing theory and practice, Delfos incorporates the findings of current research, and moves beyond. She addresses issues such as differences between men and women with autistic spectrum disorders, and the question of what is ‘normal’, illustrating her points with many real life examples. A Strange World is both an accessible resource for parents and an important textbook for students and professionals.

Price: $39.34 US

TOP FIVE MYTHS ABOUT AUTISM

There are many myths and misunderstanding about Autism, which would be impossible to list them all, but here are a few that we believe people feel are true.

1. HAVING AUTISM MEANS YOU’RE RETARDED

People on the Autism Spectrum usually have above average intelligence levels and any diagnosis of an Autistic Spectrum condition will have nothing whatsoever to do with how intelligent they are.  Autism is simply a difference in the way the neurons in the brain communicate with each other, which leads to difficulties within the social interaction, communication and behavior centers of the brain.  So, why do people believe in this myth?  Well, mainly because of the specific difficulties that Autistic people deal with on a daily basis.  For example:  They can perform poorly on certain types of test, whereas, they can excel on other types of tests.  This can be mistaken for a general lack of intelligence in all areas, and can often lead Autistic people in believing or thinking that they are stupid, when in actually they are very intelligent.  Some Autistic people have learning difficulties and some don’t think exactly the same way as some “normal” typical learner.   The other reason why people believe this myth to be true is because of the unusual movements and behaviors.  They can look very odd or strange if you don’t understand them, so it’s easy to see why this myth persists, but that doesn’t make it true.

So, a diagnosis of Autism means only one thing–you’re Autistic and life goes on.

2. HAVING AUTISM MEANS YOU’RE MENTALLY ILL

Even though Autism is listed in the DSM-IV (Diagnostic Statistical Manual) which covers all mental health issues, it is NOT classified as a mental health illness.  Autism is a neurological condition where the brain processes information differently due to its wiring and processing.  So, why do people believe this myth?  Again, it’s easy to see why people would think someone whose behavior is so unusual has some kind of mental illness, but there is also another reason why this myth persists:  psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder can very often accompany autism and can be made worse by a failure to recognize the underlying cause.  However, being Autistic does not automatically mean you will have any of these other issues.

A diagnosis of Autism means only one thing – that you’re Autistic; mental illness is something entirely different.

3. BEING A BAD PARENT CAUSES AUTISM

There has been extensive scientific research into the causes of Autism, leading to many theories as to its origins.  Years ago, before the condition was properly understood, many people assumed that inadequate parenting skills had something to do with the behavioral difficulties associated with the condition.  The latest evidence all points towards autism being a genetically inherited condition which has been proven to affect the functions of various parts of the brain, leading to the very specific behavioral Autistic people exhibit.  Since bad parenting has never shown up on any type of brain scan, we can safely assume it has nothing to do with the original cause of the condition!  So why do people believe this myth?

Many Autistic children find being in a public place totally overwhelming and will go into instant meltdown- screaming, running away, head banging, throwing a complete tantrum, and destroying anything in their path.  Or, they may become very shy and clingy or shaky.  The majority of people seeing this kind of behavior would expect parents to be angry and discipline their child. However, the parents of Autistic children understand that shouting at their child or even spanking their child cannot change the way the child’s brain is wired, so they appear to simply allow the behavior to continue, leading to much disapproval from onlookers.  Everyone behaves differently when they’re in different places (their private and public personalities), but with more able Autistic people, this trait can be far more extreme. An Autistic person’s brain learns a specific set of rules in one environment and has great difficulty applying those rules to another situation.  For instance, they may enjoy eating certain foods at school or at work, but refuse to eat that exact same food at home. If they’re able to understand the social rules, Autistic individuals will try very hard to follow them (even if they don’t understand why they’re so important to other people), but the strain of trying to fit in and follow these rules outside of the home can become overwhelming, and many Autistic individuals become overloaded both emotionally and physically.  Which, results in having massive outbursts or “meltdowns” when they get indoors.  This marked inconsistency in behavior is a classic sign of an Autistic Spectrum condition manifesting itself, but is very often mistaken for naughtiness and lack of parental control or discipline.

A diagnosis of being Autistic means only one thing – that you’re Autistic; being a bad parent is something totally different.

4. AUTISTIC PEOPLE CAN’T SPEAK

Autism is a spectrum condition, meaning that the level of difficulties Autistic individuals face every day, varies hugely from person to person.

One of the main areas affected by Autism is the ability to process, interpret and express language verbally, but Autistic individuals are Autistic, not stupid.  So, many Autistic individuals will find ways to compensate for this, usually by allowing their spoken language skills to improve over time.  In fact, one of the recognized characteristics of people with Asperger’s is their enormous vocabulary and their tendency to speak for longer than what is generally acceptable periods of time about things they find interesting.  So why do people believe this myth?  The answer to this is very straightforward – unless someone is profoundly affected by their Autism, the vast majority of people simply don’t realize the person they’re speaking to is on the spectrum at all.  They might find them odd or a little obsessive, but if the only people they actually recognize as being Autistic are those who are unable to communicate with spoken language, it’s no wonder they assume Autistic people can’t speak.  Asperger’s is often referred to as “the invisible disorder” for this very reason.  One very important point to remember here is that there are other ways in which profoundly Autistic individuals can communicate.  For instance, by simply using body gestures or sounds, and once you get to know these common signals, you will quickly realize that not being able to speak doesn’t mean they have nothing to say!

A diagnosis of Autism means only one thing – you’re Autistic; the ability to communicate with spoken language is another thing.

5. AUTISM ONLY AFFECTS BOYS

Male and female brains are wired differently, and the areas affected by Autism are those most closely associated with male behavior traits.  Without stereotyping anyone, girls are generally better at communication, learning social skills, anger management, flexibility, and multi-tasking than boys, because they’re designed that way. Boys tend to have a harder time learning these skills even without Autism being a diagnosis.  So, when its effects are far more obvious, hence boys are far more commonly diagnosed than girls because the Autism is holding their development back to the point where intervention is needed.  So why do people believe this myth?

First, there are many more boys being diagnosed with an Autistic Spectrum conditions than girls, which is understandable considering the differences in their brain wiring.  So, when the majority of people hear about an individual being diagnosed, that individual is usually a boy.  Secondly, girls usually fit in socially, and Autistic women will go to extraordinary lengths to compensate for their difficulties or move attention away from them, so they appear “normal” on the surface, while struggling greatly underneath.  As a result, there are a very large number of women and girls on the spectrum who have not been diagnosed and most likely never will be. Whether they need a formal diagnosis or not will depend on how much the Autism affects their day to day life, but the fact is that they’re definitely out there, and there are a lot of them.

A diagnosis of Autism means only one thing – you’re Autistic; being male or female is another matter all together.

 

For more information regarding FACTS/FICTION and the Mysteries behind AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS, ASPERGER SYNDROME…visit http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/pdf/parents_pdfs/autismfactsheet.pd     and  http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/pdf/parents_pdfs/Asperger_Syndrome.pdf

Special Needs Toys (Link and Video)

U.S. Department of Eduction

http://idea.ed.gov/

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-pervasive-developmental-disorders/index.shtml


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