What Is Autism?
Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life. Autism and its associated characteristics have been estimated to occur in as many as 1 in 150 individuals. Autism is four times more prevalent in boys than girls and knows no racial, ethnic or social boundaries. Family income, lifestyle and educational levels do not affect the chance of autism’s occurrence.
Autism impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Children and adults with autism typically have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities. The disorder makes it hard for them to communicate with others and relate to the outside world. In some cases, aggressive and/or self-injurious behaviour may be present.
Every person with autism is different. However, there are some common characteristics of individuals on the autism spectrum that may occur:
- Difficulty in using and understanding language
- Difficulty in using social skills and navigating social situations
- Over or under sensitivity to sound, sight, taste, touch, or smell
- Highly-focused restriction of interests and activities
- Repetitive behaviours such as spinning or lining up objects
- Difficulty with changes to surroundings or routines
- Uneven pattern of intellectual development
- Anxiety, abnormal fears and/or lack of appropriate fear of real dangers
Autism is a spectrum disorder. In other words, the symptoms and characteristics of autism can present themselves in a wide variety of combinations, from mild to severe. Although ASD is defined by a certain set of characteristics, children and adults can exhibit any combination of these characteristics in any degree of severity. Two children, both with the same diagnosis, can act very differently from one another and have varying skills.
There is NO known cause or cure for ASDs. What is known is that ASD is not a mental illness. Children with autism are not unruly kids who choose not to behave. Autism is not caused by bad parenting.
While no one can predict the future, it is known that some adults with autism live and work independently in the community (drive a car, earn a college degree, get married); some may be fairly independent in the community and need only minimal support for daily pressures; while others depend on a lot of support from family and professionals.