Autism is a very common condition to have. Organisations such as Autism Speaks estimate that tens of millions of people worldwide are (known to be) affected by autism, and the number increases steadily with every passing year. Nowadays it seems that the vast majority of the human population either have autism themselves, have a friend or family member with autism, are a carer or teacher of someone with autism, or at the very least come across people with autism in their daily lives.
Yet we must always bear in mind that one autistic person may be nothing at all like another. Say for instance we can’t ever attain a clear picture of someone when we make comparisons between each other’s behaviours and interests. The truth is that despite us sharing key characteristics of autism, our personalities are each our own, and an ASD diagnosis doesn’t weaken our individuality. For example as people we may be introverted, extraverted, optimistic, pessimistic, egotistical, humble, kind, mean, and the list goes on. So before we get to know anyone with autism we mustn't ever make the assumption that they are like someone else we know (which may even include ourself).
However having said all that, it is indeed true that in order to get an autism diagnosis we do have to fit certain criteria. But even so those key traits are on an extremely vast spectrum, and some of them will show in an individual, while others may not even be present at all.
There isn’t enough space in this blog to mention every ASD trait in detail. Yet it is possible for me to give a very brief overview of them all. Autism is a developmental condition that a person is born with and has for the rest of their lifetime. The areas that can be affected by autism include our understanding and interpretation of emotions, understanding of body language, hypothetical reasoning, sensory processing, ability to cope with sudden change, cognitive awareness, ability to socialize, coping with overstimulation, as well as our dexterity and motor skills.
We may or may not have skills that are recognised as savant abilities. Yet we will always have a particular area where our abilities are stronger than they are elsewhere. Studies have found that these special interest areas tend to most commonly be in the fields of memory, writing, visuospatial skills and drawing. It’s very important for parents, educators, therapists and autistic people ourselves to discover our individual strengths as soon as possible. This is because there will be enormous potential for us to make a career from them, as that’ll be where all of our self-motivation comes from.
As autism is such a widely diagnosed condition on such a vast spectrum, researchers want to study cases of as many different individuals with autism as possible. That’s the only way in which science can at least come close to solving the autism puzzle. Autism is not a disease and does not need to be eradicated. The medical community only needs to know enough about autism to enable society to better understand and accommodate us all.
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The number of autism diagnoses at the moment are climbing higher every year. So much so that it’s being described by many as an epidemic. The media are indeed paying attention to this. But there is one particular word that many reports are including, which still continues to give us misconceptions. Many are reporting autism as a childhood developmental disability.
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