What is Autism?

Autism is a group of conditions within a spectrum (ASC). We could say it is a complex neurological disorder (although the convenience of this word is argued) that affects an individual throughout their lives. It usually affects a person’s communication, social interaction and social imagination, in which it’s called “The triad of impairments”:

  • Communication is how we all understand each other, it includes all forms of transmitting information to one another, even body language.
  • Social Interaction, is how we all interact with each other. Depending on cultural idiosyncrasy, means what is appropriate or not.
  • Social Imagination is the ability to imagine ourselves out of our familiar routines and be able to look at them from a different perspective

The spectrum is so big that we could have autistic people having what we would understand as standard or/and successful lives whilst others need high levels of support to get by.

How is Autism diagnosed?

As with every condition that can have an effect on one’s life, early diagnose and therapy implementation is key to help everyone reach their full potential.

Normally, it would be the parents who notice unusual behaviours or that their child does not reach developmental milestones. Some parents mention they noticed their child seemed different since birth whilst others speak about a regression, thus their child went through the expected milestones for their age and then seemed to stop or even ‘forget’ said abilities.

What does “being in the spectrum” mean?

Like we said before, autism is imagined within a spectrum. Let’s imagine a huge cylinder and depending on which point of said cylinder we find ourselves at, our lives with autism will be different to that at a different point. Autism is very complex and while we can find people in care homes, community living houses, mental health hospitals and similar settings who need that level of support to stay safe, supported and happy, others live standard lives, with jobs, bills, children… We even have celebrities like Dan Aykroyd  (Ghostbusters), Daryl Hannah (Kill Bill) or Megan Fox (Transformers) and eminences in their fields such Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin who have helped create awareness and de-stigmatizing this condition.

Advocates for autism like to speak about “Autism treats” rather than symptoms. Some of these can include some, none of all of the following: Information process delay, repetitive movements, strict routines, inability to speak (non verbal, not to be confused with mute)…

One of the most characteristic treats is the sensory impairment. That can be under or over sensory to touch, smells, sounds lights and tastes. Some people can hate the feel of silk while others love the taste of a raw onion but can’t stand it cooked. It is a fascinating journey taking a person with autism into discovering new sensations, but it must be done carefully.

Another thing that affects neurotypical people a lot and also takes its tall on people with autism is anxiety. Anxiety can be triggered by many factors, such stress. Now imagine how an autistic person can feel if they have any or many of the issues we just learnt about. It would be terrifying and anxiety is what leads to crisis and behaviours, which could have given a bad name to the condition in the past.

How many people are affected?

We have been through a downhill journey in the last decades, going from 1 in 150 that was believed years ago, to the 1 in 63 we seemed to have currently agreed on. This difference in numbers can be related to better and more abundant ways and resources to carry out diagnose but not few believe that what we eat, breath and our lifestyle could also be having an impact on that rise.

How does Autism develop?

No one knows with certainty. We could expect that such a common and spread condition would have a known cause but in so many different ways it is still a mistery. The latest resources seem to point out there is a big genetic impact but there can also be enviromental triggers and other health conditions can affect on someone’s chances to develop Autism

But Donald J. Trump said it was vaccines!

Donald J. Trump was very irresponsible when he said that during the last American Election Campaign. This theory that Andrew Wakefield developed in 1998 was later disputed by Brian Deer who found that Mr Wakefield not only had many undeclared conflicts of interest but had also broken many ethical codes and manipulated evidence, so the paper was partially retracted in 2004 and completely thrown in the bin by 2010. Needless to say Wakefield was found guilty and removed from the Medical Registrar, meaning he could no longer practice as a Doctor.

It has been a recurrent point to make by those against vaccines, but let us be clear: Despite agreeing or being against the amount of heavy metals, non existent in older version of the same medicines, vaccines do not cause autism. They just don’t.

Is there a cure for Autism?

Now this question could offend (righteously) so many people with Autism as this could be percieved as an attack to what makes them different or what gives them abilities beyond human comprehension, like super rich imagination. Normally, relatives of those whose lives have been negatively affected by the condition seem to defer a little.

Anyhow, there are only two possible answers to this tricky question:

  • No, Autism is not a disease hence does not need a cure.
  • No, Autism is caused by different development of how our brain works and process information. As someone within the spectrum stated on Twitter: “Our brain is wired differently, so works differently but works fine”.

We hope you enjoyed and learned a little bit about autism, however if you want to learn more, why not check the links below?