Although autism is a word that’s more commonly heard nowadays, it is still something that a lot of people don’t know much about. We’ve heard of it, yes. Do we understand what it actually means? Not quite. What is autism?
If you’ve always wanted to know more about it, here’s autism explained.
Autism is not a mental illness
Autism is a neurodevelopment disorder. It’s not an ‘illness’ that can be cured. For those with autism, it’s part of who they are for life. Autism affects the growth and development of the brain, deteriorating the brain functions as they grow up. They may in some cases improve in terms of social interaction with others or meeting the expectations of society, hiding the signs and symptoms of autism from the eyes of the public.
Autism is a spectrum condition
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are characterised by poor verbal and non-verbal communication, impaired social interaction, as well as restricted and repetitive behavior (RRBs). Some may show lack of interest in others, find it hard to understand others, tend to repeat the words spoken by others, or even throw tantrums when their usual routines are disrupted – these are just some autism symptoms.
Seeing the world differently
Those with autism find it difficult to use, read, or understand tone of voice, facial expressions or any other non-verbal communications. To them, the world is in definite black-and-white; there’s no grey area, no “perhaps” or “maybe”. The reasons are because they process senses input and information differently.
Sensing the world differently
A person with autism may have hyper-acute or hypo-acute senses. Those with hyper-acute senses don’t have ‘filters’ when it comes to the input of information from their senses - sounds, smells, touch, taste and sights may seem to be ordinary or even unnoticeable to us, but due to enhanced senses, the overload of information can be painful for one with autism. Even a trip down to the grocery store can over-stimulate the senses and cause them to suffer. On the other hand, those living with hypo-acute senses have quite the opposite problem – detection of normal level of input may be missed, which causes them to appear withdrawn or unresponsive.
Not that they find you unamusing, it’s just that they may not understand your jokes or sarcasm. Instructions make sense to them more than idioms, metaphors or any other word or phrase that is not supposed to be taken literally. To a person with autism, “fish out of water” may mean fishes that literally jumped out of the water, not being somewhere you don’t belong. However it doesn’t mean that they do not have a sense of humour; they do, it’s just a little different to yours.
|Tell me “this task is easy” instead of “this is a piece of cake” when there’s no sight of dessert|
It’s not just a childhood thing
Autism can be detected as early as prior to the age of three. However, autism doesn’t go away once the kids hit their 18th birthday – it follows them for life
Acceptance Is Greater Than Cure
Understanding is the first step of acceptance. Autism can’t be cured; those with autism can however, with the help of those around them, improve their social interacting skills, and be trained to react according to the social standards. We as part of society should embrace their differences to enable them to contribute what they know and are capable of to the world.
You may have come across persons with autism before only to dismiss them as misbehaving or creating trouble. Or perhaps parents trying to calm their child down while you berate them in your mind for not disciplining their child properly. Or perhaps even avoiding the 'strange' person.
We can do our part in helping those with autism by educating ourselves, gaining understanding and helping to create awareness on this disorder. And that’s not too difficult at all.
- Autism Center of Excellence . What is Autism?. https://autism-center.ucsd.edu/autism-information/Pages/what-is-autism.aspx (accessed 6 April 2016).
- NHS Choices. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) . http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Autistic-spectrum-disorder/Pages/Introduction.aspx (accessed 6 April 2016).
- National Autistic Society. Autism. http://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is/asd.aspx (accessed 6 April 2016).
- Notbohm E. Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew. TX, USA: Future Horizons; 2012. http://www.autism.net.au/Downloads/Ten%20Things%20Every%20Autistic%20Child%20Wishes%20You%20Knew.pdf (accessed 6 April 2016).
- Notbohm E, Zysk V. One Thousand One Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism Aspengers. TX, USA: Future Horizons; 2010. https://books.google.com.my/books?id=GnAh6JmCE0EC&pg=PA45&lpg=PA45&dq=hyper+acute+senses+autism&source=bl&ots=D-mcKsCWN9&sig=OP90IiqsWN4E2mm57T1O0UjzkmY&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=hyper%20acute%20senses%20autism&f=false (accessed 6 April 2016).
- Roux, Anne M., Shattuck, Paul T., Rast, Jessica E., Rava, Julianna A., and Anderson, Kristy, A. National Autism Indicators Report: Transition into Young Adulthood. Philadelphia, PA: Life Course Outcomes Research Program, A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, Drexel University, 2015. - See more at: http://drexel.edu/autisminstitute/research-projects/research/ResearchPrograminLifeCourseOutcomes/indicatorsreport/#sthash.31XId4lN.hpOhbqKR.dpuf