Myth Busters - Autism Spectrum Disorder
It is said that if you have seen 10 children with autism, you have seen 10 different cases of autism. No two cases are alike. Here are some misconceptions.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder that has been attracting more and more attention in recent years. This spectrum is characterised by deficits in two major areas. Firstly, social communication, and secondly, restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour and interests. Even with the abundance of information available on this complex spectrum, it can still be a confusing matter for families, educators and caregivers.
As the title suggests, ASD is a spectrum disorder whereby there is great variance in abilities and characteristics of individuals across the spectrum. It is said that if you have seen 10 children with autism, you have seen 10 different cases of autism. No two cases are alike.
Common Misconceptions About People with Autism
1. People with ASD do not like to socialise with others
Individuals with autism tend to exhibit difficulties with social skills, for example the inability to make or sustain eye contact. Sometimes, their lack of social skills may make them appear shy or even unfriendly, however, it is more likely anxiety and the inability to communicate their desire to connect that is causing their behaviour. For many, socialisation and attempts to socialise needs to be broken down into simple concrete steps and requires the support from family and teachers in a step by step manner.
2. People with ASD do not have speech
One of the common red flags of ASD is a lack or delay of speech in children. However, with early intervention and regular speech therapy, many individuals with ASD progress to have fluent age-appropriate speech. Others can learn to use different modes of communication such as gestures or pictures, for example “Picture Exchange Communication System” or PECS.
3. ASD only affects children
To fulfil the criteria for an ASD diagnosis, symptoms must be present from the early developmental stages, so in many cases, ASD is diagnosed in childhood. Children diagnosed with ASD will grow up to become teenagers and then adults with ASD. However, milder forms of ASD may not be diagnosed until later in life when social demands begin to exceed abilities. It is important to note that the presentation of symptoms will manifest differently as individuals progress through different stages of life - hence the importance of tailoring support for different age groups.
4. ASD is caused by vaccination
There is no specific cause of ASD, or rather, no one factor has been identified as the cause of ASD. Current research highlights that some of the risk factors for ASD are both genetic and environmental factors. Genetically, research has shown that autism tends to run in families. Some environmental factors include parental age and pregnancy or birth complications.
5. Autism can be cured
There is no known cure for ASD, however, children with ASD can benefit from structured early intervention including speech and occupational therapy, with intervention tailored to the individual needs of the child. This can lead to a reduction in symptoms and the severity of symptoms.
6. ASD only affects boys
ASD does seem to be more prevalent in boys than girls, with the ratio of about 4:1. There is no exact reason for this difference however it is believed that autism is harder to detect in girls due to behavioural differences in the two genders at the early stages of life. As a result, studies have shown that girls with ASD tend to be diagnosed later in life when different life challenges arise.
This article has been republished with permission from Kiddy123