Day 39 – Understanding the Autism Spectrum

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to a group of complex neurodevelopment disorders characterized by repetitive and characteristic patterns of behavior and difficulties with social communication and interaction. The symptoms are present from early childhood and affect daily functioning.

The term “spectrum” refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability in functioning that can occur in people with ASD. Some children and adults with ASD are fully able to perform all activities of daily living while others require substantial support to perform basic activities. 

Globally, autism is estimated to affect 24.8 million people. It has been estimated to affect 1 in 54 individuals in the United States and it is more common in boys than girls. Parents often notice signs during the first three years of their child’s life. Prevalence of ASD has increased more than 150% since 2000.

Early signs and symptoms include:

  • Lack of eye contact
  • Not responding appropriately to greetings, gestures or facial expressions
  • Exhibiting oversensitivity to sounds or textures
  • Becoming distressed by minor changes in routines
  • Performing repetitive movements, such as hand-flapping or rocking
  • Preferring to play alone
  • Not engaging in pretend play

A complete list of the early signs and symptoms of Autism is available from the Center for Autism or HealthyChildren.org. A self-diagnostic, screening tool for parents may also be helpful. 

There have been many notable and inspiring people who are or have been on the Autism Spectrum, including:

  • Bill Gates – Co-founder of the Microsoft Corporation
  • Steve Jobs – Former CEO of Apple
  • Jerry Seinfeld – Comedian
  • Michelangelo – Sculptor, Painter, Architect, Poet
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Classical Composer
  • Sir Isaac Newton – Mathematician, Astronomer, and Physicist
  • Thomas Jefferson – Early American Politician
  • Albert Einstein – Scientist and Mathematician
  • Bobby Fischer – Chess Grandmaster

Not everyone living with Autism will accomplish “great” things.  Additionally, many people exist on the more functional end of the Spectrum, without even knowing it.  Bottomline, different does not mean less

Albert Einstein summarizes it well, “Everybody is a genius.  But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.” 

*The Art of Autism looks like an interesting organization to support.