It is our job as human beings to be consciously aware and treat others with the same kindness and awareness that we expect. To do this, we must debunk stereotypical myths and better understand the truth behind the conditions that people live with. According to the Northwestern Medicine organization, one in 59 children has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). About 50 percent of the people on the spectrum do not have an intellectual disability and it is crucial to know that IQ is not inherently associated with autism.
Since autism can look different amongst everyone, understanding the general facts about Autism Spectrum Disorder is very important, so you can actually understand the disorder. Here are the common questions.
What does 'on the spectrum' mean?
It is an umbrella term for development disorders previously diagnosed separately as Asperger syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, Rett syndrome, pervasive development disorder, and others.
How can you identify the limitations of someone on the spectrum?
The best way to understand a person’s limitations and/or struggles is by talking with the person. Since everyone deals with the disorder in a different way, having a conversation about an individual’s diagnosis and experience is truly the best way to identify any limitations.
Can someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder work outside the home, attend college, or get married?
Yes, absolutely! Some people can function almost seamlessly and be on the spectrum. There is no cure for autism, but many high-functioning people on the spectrum do not consider themselves in need of a cure. There are different therapies and resources that help high-functioning people on the spectrum have completely normal day-to-day.
How or when is someone diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder can be difficult because there is not a single medical test such as a blood test. Doctors must rely on a child’s behavior and development to make a diagnosis. Even though some professionals believe a diagnosis at the young age of two years old is possible, most children do not receive a full diagnosis until they are much earlier. It is also harder for doctors to diagnosis Autism Spectrum Disorder in girls; therefore, a female’s condition is oftentimes overlooked.
Here are the most common myths debunked.
"Autism is a mental health disorder."
Autism is a neurological disorder. Studies have found that people with autism have abnormalities in brain structure and neurotransmitter levels.
"Autism is caused by vaccines."
There is no evidence linking childhood vaccination with autism.
"Autism is caused solely by environmental factors."
Scientists have identified that genes are one of the causes of autism. Environmental factors can influence the symptom severity that an individual experiences.
"People on the spectrum cannot feel love and lack empathic feelings."
While individuals with autism may struggle with social interaction, they can still feel love and have empathic feelings. Just because they express their feelings differently does not mean they are incapable of experiencing or expressing love.
If you are interested in learning more about the spectrum and how you can be a better human being to people living on the spectrum, there are a lot of wonderful books written by professionals and actual individuals who live with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Here are some of our recommendations.
- The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida
- Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s by John Elder Robison
- Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism by Barry M. Prizant
If you’re a parent and seeking books for your children, here are age-appropriate recommendations for children to consider.
- All My Stripes by Shaina Rudolph (picture book)
- The Kids’ Guide to Staying Awesome and In Control by Lauren Brukner (great for tweens and teens)
- My Emotions Journal: Feelings Journal for Kids (all ages)
It is important to know and understand that someone on the spectrum is capable and shouldn’t be treated as unqualified because of their disability. Even though an individual on the spectrum may experience additional hurdles and struggles in life, that does not mean they are unable to achieve the same goals and experience the same successes as someone not diagnosed with autism.