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Understanding Autism – World Autism Awareness Month

by Janvi Punjabi

World Autism Awareness Month

Hello learners!

We are back with yet another blog on something sensitive yet very insightful. April is widely known and recognized as the “World Autism Awareness Month” encouraging people from around the world to take steps to raise awareness about people with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD). In today’s blog, we are going to take a look at autism and understand Autism.  

So, What Is Autism Exactly?

Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that’s also known as autism spectrum disorder. This disorder is said to affect a person’s responses, communication, and reflex behavior. It is generally observed that people who have autism find it difficult to reciprocate socially and emotionally. 

It is a disorder that affects different people differently. Often people misapprehend autism with a learning disability. However, autism is not a learning disability. It is much more complex. 

Autism  kid

What Causes Autism?

Autism as a disorder has no single known cause. The complexity of the problem is high; the symptoms are incredibly subjective and have a very varied range. That’s why autism is said to have many causes. However, the two most significant causes are genetic factors and environmental elements. They both play a vital role.  

1. How Genetics Cause Autism?

Several reasons are said to be associated with autism. In most cases, it is said to be related to the Rett syndrome or the fragile X syndrome. Many other genes can also cause autism, but these different permutations and combinations may increase the risk of causing the disorder. A lot of genetic mutations seem to be inherited, while on the other hand, some can also occur spontaneously. 

2. What Role Do The Environmental Factors Play?

Even though this is still being researched, many studies show that factors like viral infections, medication issues, complications during birth tend to become a triggering catalyst in the whole process of autism. 

What Are The Symptoms And Signs Of Autism?

The symptoms and signs in autism are very subjective and differ from person to person. The severity also varies so do the symptoms. Here are some common ones:

  • Impaired social functioning systems
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Self-harming or self-abusive behavior
  • Social withdrawal
  • Under-developed language skills
  • Repetitive or perpetual moments
  • Unusual reactions
  • Anxious behavior
  • Heightened sensitivity to sound
Autism

What Factors Can Increase The Risk Of Autism?

1. Family History

Families who have any history related to autism, which may also be just a single person from the family tree having the autistic spectrum disorder, make the future generations way more susceptible to the risk of autism. This also includes the family members having minor issues related to communication and responsiveness. Family history has a huge impact. 

2. Gender Of The Child

A lot of reports and researches state that males are four times more likely to have autism than females. 

3. Having Other Medical Problems

Children who have a medical history that involves problems like tuberculosis, tumors, Rett syndrome, etc. tend to be at a higher risk of autism than others. 

Autism disorder can affect people of all ages, races, genders, and nationalities; however, these are some common factors which you should be aware of.

The Social Stigma Around Autism

Parents of children with autism have extremely tough times. Parents often receive stares and annoyed looks when the child is screaming or acting up in a public space, making it even more difficult. Society is misguided into believing that this disability is bad behavior, which it practically is not. The stigma that exists worldwide around autism is a huge problem that we collectively must address. A part of society views autism as shame. This stigma is not only a social evil but also very problematic. It acts as a hurdle and keeps families away from acknowledging autism. It also forces them into “masking” their autism. 

I firmly believe autistics shouldn’t feel wrong or shameful about anything. Their responsiveness might be a little different, but they are as much human as anyone else. 

Here are some essential things we must remember and practice to not fall for the stigma.

1. Seek Help Whenever Needed

It is absolutely normal to seek help. It might be from a friend, your family, or a professional. If you find yourself in a situation where you need guidance, it is okay to ask for help. 

2. Do Not Fall Into The Deadly Trap Of The Stigma

You might end up believing that autism is an illness. Society will make you believe this. But, it is neither an illness nor a disease. Let’s work together and normalize autism to get rid of the stigma.

3. Educate Yourself And Everyone Around You

It is a wise option to have credible knowledge before you speak or react to something. Stay informed about such issues in society. Educating yourself and others about autism will make sure everyone is in this together and is supportive enough. This will automatically make the world a kinder place to be in. 

Autistic kids

How To Be Receptive Towards People With Autism?

Autism can sometimes be challenging to deal with. However, being kind and receptive towards people with autistic symptoms is something we must all preach and practice. Here are a few ways which can help.

1. Try To Not Stare At Them.

Autism comes along with some problematic self-regulating behaviors. They tend to show some atypical actions, but that is just how they react to things. It is different but normal. So the next time you see something like this, do not stare. Instead, lend a helping hand and be kind to them.

2. Rudeness Doesn’t Go Well With Them And No Sad Faces Please.

People who have autism are sensitive in nature, so don’t be rude. Don’t abandon them. Say hi to them. Be kind, have a conversation with them. Pass on smiles and kindness. It goes a long way. 

3. Try And Avoid Idioms Or Slang Language. 

Make sure your words are unambiguous. People with autism tend to take a literal meaning of everything you say, so keep that in mind to avoid sarcasm or anything that can turn into offensive statements. Be very cautious with the choice of words. These small steps go a long way!

Busting The Myths About Autism 

Myth: Autism Is A Disease

Autism is definitely not a disease. People with autistic spectrum disorder should not be termed as ill. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder, not a disease.

Myth: People Who Have Autism Don’t Feel Emotions 

This is false. People who are autistic are fully capable of understanding emotions. They just don’t respond in a certain way that we usually expect. The responsiveness can vary. 

Myth: Autistic People Cannot Learn

Autism is a spectrum, which means that everyone can have different abilities. Some people might learn about new things quickly. On the other hand, some might not. Effective and professional therapy comes into the picture, which can help autistic people understand well. 

Myth: Bad Parenting Causes/Leads To Autism

This is simply untrue and has no evidence or theory that supports it. A long time ago, some localities made a story that said that mothers who are not warm towards their children could lead them to autism. Scientists dismissed this theory instantly. However, the myth is still propagated. 

Myth: People Who Show Autistic Symptoms Are Not Good At Maintaining Relationships.

This myth is highly untrue and insensitive. Autistics might be a little socially awkward and unresponsive. Still, if they are treated with care and understanding, they can indeed be great people to have around in life.

Before ending this blog, here is a small note

Let’s teach ourselves and everyone around us to be more empathetic towards people with special needs. Let us pledge to practice kindness and compassion, celebrate the differences, and educate people around us. By doing so, we can surely make this world a kinder place to live in for everyone.

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