As a spectrum disorder, autism is not as easy to understand as other neurological or developmental disorders given that every case varies from person to person. With a lot of misinformation and inconsistencies surrounding autism, we decided to make a post on some quick facts to help you understand this disorder more.
Quick facts about autism
Before we go and debunk some of the most common myths you’ve heard about autism, here are a few quick facts to let you know about ASD.
- Autism affects all ethnic and socioeconomic groups. However, minority groups tend to have fewer occurrences of autism.
- For every 44 children in the United States, one is diagnosed with ASD.
- Autism is four times more prevalent in boys affecting 1 out of 27 compared to girls with a ratio of 1 out of 116.
- Forty-four percent of children with autism have a higher IQ than normal while 31 percent have a low IQ of below 70. The rest, which makes up 25 percent, are in the borderline range of the normal IQ range from 71 to 85.
- Autism is more common than diabetes and childhood cancer.
- Early intervention is still the key to helping children with autism become independent functioning adults.
- Children with autism can be diagnosed as early as 18 months onwards.
- Autism affects the whole body and its functions including diet, sleep, mood, and also behavior.
- There is currently no known cure for autism.
- Forty percent of people with ASD are nonverbal.
- Three to six out of 10 children with autism also suffer from Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
- Obesity is a common problem among children and people with autism
Now that you’re aware of these quick facts, let’s next dive into the most common autism myths and the truth about them.
Autism Facts: Eight Popular Myths Debunked
The best way to understand people with autism is to become aware of the facts surrounding the disorder. Below are the most common myths debunked about ASD and the truth you should know about them.
Myth #1: Autistic people are mentally ill.
People with autism are twice more likely to suffer from a mental health disorder especially when they are not diagnosed early and given proper intervention.
However, having autism does not make someone “mentally ill.” Instead, autism affects the brain structure since it is categorized as a neurological disorder. Autism also affects behavior patterns and can also lead to cognitive delays.
Myth #2: Autism is only for children.
Autism spectrum disorder affects all kinds of people no matter their race or age or socioeconomic status.
On the other hand, autism is more commonly diagnosed in children especially when they show obvious symptoms of the disorder. Children with autism can grow up and become teens or even adults who are left undiagnosed unless someone professional or those familiar with autism can point out obvious signs of the disorder.
This is where awareness of autism symptoms is very important.
The most common symptoms of autism include:
- Delayed speech
- Avoiding eye contact
- Easily upset on minor changes, like a change in routines in schedules
- Unexpected reactions to sensory stimuli like touch, sound, sight, smell, or taste
- Difficulty showing or understanding people’s emotions
- Hyper behavior
- Fixation on certain objects, subjects, or activities
- Repetitive behaviors like rocking, twirling, jumping, or hand-flapping
If you think a child or someone you know has autism, it’s best to seek professional help to get the proper intervention.
Myth #3: Children with autism can grow out of it.
Children with autism cannot outgrow the disorder since it’s not a phase or a stage.
In fact, autism is a lifelong disorder. The only way someone with autism can manage their symptoms is through specific treatments like applied behavior therapy. Proper diet and exercise also play a role in managing autism.
Since autism is a spectrum disorder, every individual’s needs are also unique and different. This is where early intervention is necessary to ensure that children with autism can grow and get the support and treatment they need to become self-reliant and independent adults.
Myth #4: Children or people with autism are very smart (or not).
Autism signs and symptoms vary from person to person. Some children with autism exhibit language delays. Others are totally nonverbal. Some have difficulty interacting with their peers. Others can be diagnosed with autism and still be high-functioning individuals who can live without much support. Others exhibit higher intelligence than normal and at the same time be diagnosed with ASD.
All in all, autism symptoms widely vary from one person to another. Since there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to autism, judging a person’s intellectual ability based on having the disorder will not be accurate.
Myth #5: People with autism are violent and dangerous.
Most of the time, people or children with autism tend to be violent due to outside stressors that causes emotional distress. Sometimes, these violent tendencies are shown in the form of “tantrums” or other aggressive acts. In some cases, some people with autism resort to self-harm like banging their heads or biting their arms.
Usually, an overload of outside sensory stimuli causes people with autism to suffer from emotional distress. The sensory overload they experience cause someone with autism to lash out or react violently.
When this happens, proper intervention is very important to help the autistic child calm down in a stressful environment and situation. This is also where the support and care of the parent or guardian is needed the most to help the autistic child or person feel loved and secure.
Myth #6: People with autism cannot form relationships.
One of the most common misconceptions among people with autism is that they don’t want to form relationships with others.
The truth is, people with autism actually want to form relationships with their peers and family. The only problem is that social interactions are a big challenge for them since people on the spectrum have difficulty understanding social cues.
This doesn’t mean that they don’t want to form any kind of relationship with other people. This is where offering emotional support, guidance, and understanding them on a different level can make a lot of difference for those on the spectrum.
Myth #7: Vaccines cause autism.
The vaccine ingredient thimerosal was once thought to cause autism spectrum disorder.
When the controversial ingredient was then removed from vaccines, ASD cases increased instead of going down. This only proved that vaccines do not actually cause autism.
Since then, a lot of research has been done to know the leading cause of autism since there is no single cause identified to cause the disorder.
There are, however, a few reasons why a child or person might have autism including genetic and environmental factors like the following to name a few:
- Genetic mutations or chromosomal abnormalities
- Birth complications like preterm births or low birth weight
- Children born to older parents
- Metabolic imbalance
- History of maternal infections during pregnancy
- Prenatal medications or exposure to chemicals
- Poor maternal health
Myth #8: There is a cure for autism.
Unfortunately, autism has no known cure. At the moment, people with autism manage their symptoms with the help of therapy and other similar treatment options.
Since autism is a lifelong disorder, natal screening and evaluation are very important to provide early diagnosis and intervention. Screenings for autism can be done as early as 18 to 24 months. This is usually performed by developmental specialists or pediatricians. Once a child is diagnosed with autism, he or she can get the right treatment and support to manage and improve their symptoms over time.
Aside from therapy, proper diet, enough sleep, exercise, and most importantly emotional and moral support from close family members help children and people with autism cope best with their disorder.
By knowing these autism facts, you can easily identify the myths surrounding the spectrum disorder and better understand people who have ASD.