April is Autism Awareness Month

What is Autism?

Autism is a pervasive neuro-developmental condition which effects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. People with autism may have a difficult time understanding ‘typical’ social cues and social behaviors, and they may face challenges engaging with those around them — either by using words or non-verbal behaviors. Affecting 1 in every 68 people in the United States, Autism is one of the fastest growing neurological conditions in the world. Although, due to the widespread emphasis on early detection and intervention, the condition is commonly associated with young children. While many young individuals with Autism (who have access services) learn to develop skills and strategies to address various challenges they face living in a predominantly neurotypical society, children with autism do in fact become adults with autism and do not simply “grow out” of the condition. Autism is a spectrum condition and manifests differently and to varying degrees in every individual.

What are signs of Autism?

Although these are some of the most common signs and symptoms, please note that every individual on the autism spectrum is unique and manifests a different set of behaviors. As you may have noticed we frequently use the terms “may” “might” “frequently” “usually” quite a bit, in an effort to emphasize the individuality of the condition. As well, while many symptoms are common in both adults and children, others present themselves differently throughout the lifespan.

  • Delay and/or difficulty in learning language or lack of functional communication.

  • Children on the autism spectrum disorder typically have some degree of impairment in communication. For example they may not respond to their name, initiate interaction with others, or demonstrate age-appropriate language development.

  • Individuals with autism may often engage in repetitive body movements.

  • Hand-flapping, tapping, spinning/rocking their body, or looking at things out of the corner of their eye.

  • Marked impairments in interpreting and reciprocating non-verbal gestures.

  • May demonstrate difficulties in identifying and interpreting various facial expressions and body-language such as foot tapping, stares, discomfort, raised eyebrows, etc.

  • May focus on restricted interests.

  • This can include preoccupation with certain topics or having things a certain way—like wanting to learn everything about vacuum cleaners or lining things up in a certain order.

  • Lack of interest or deficits in developing and maintaining peer appropriate relationships and delayed development of social skills.

  • As stated, while some individuals on the spectrum prefer solitude, many desire to make friends, interact socially but may lack the functional ability to do so (aka hidden curriculum).

  • Many people on the spectrum may appear shy, standoffish, or unaware of those around them. Do not take this as a

Autism Across Borders

Autism looks different for every person and affects everyone differently—that’s why it’s called a “spectrum”. Autism may also be recognized differently in different cultures. While autism is a condition that affects all populations and countries at the same rate, sometimes social behaviors vary from culture to culture. For example, eye contact expectations are different from country to country. Lack of eye contact can be a common sign of autism in the United States, whereas other cultures might not notice it as much. Access to diagnostic tools and awareness of autism symptoms (like eye contact) can affect rates of autism in other countries, and service provision.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the application of the laws and scientific principles of behaviorism to produce positive, meaningful change. ABA therapy is an effective therapy for helping individuals with autism lead meaningful lives, and become happy, engaged members in their communities.

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