By: Koeun Choi
So let's talk Autism. Most recent Center for Disease Control stats tell us that 1 out of every 88 children has been diagnosed with autism, with boys being 5 times more likely to be afflicted than girls. It reaches across all race and socioeconomic groups, and tens of millions of people affected worldwide.The United States alone has over 2 million people who have been diagnosed. The rate of autism diagnosed has increased ten-fold in the past 40 years and in the recent years alone, statistics suggest that it has increased 10-17%.* For something that is so prevalent in society, Autism is unfortunately greatly misunderstood.
It probably doesn't help that the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), more commonly called Autism, actually encompasses a wide range of complex disorders of brain development.** Autism affects each individual to different degrees. Think of the loveable TV show character Abed from Community who is able to live independently, appears to be incredibly proficient in the art of cinematography, and yet has difficulty interacting in the normal social situations. Others may have difficulty learning languages, makes awkward gestures such as flapping of the arms, and frequently throws tantrums in an attempt to vent out feelings they cannot communicate to others. Generally, all Autism disorders are characterized by difficulty in socializing, and tends toward repetitive behaviors.
The stigma associated with Autism is greatly detrimental to those afflicted and their families. And the stigma is worsened by the many misconceptions of the disease, which brings about greater consequences. Here are some common ones below:
Fiction: People can grow out of their Autistic condition.
Fact: Unfortunately, there is no cure for autism, nor does a child ever grow out of it. It is important to realize that the longer parents wait for their children to get better without proper treatment, the worse their condition becomes. However, there are many behavioral and communication therapies that can help autistic children. Therefore, it is imperative that they receive treatment as early as possible!
Fiction: Autism must have resulted from some wrongdoing of the mother or of the parents during the pregnancy/early years of development.
Fact: The truth is that nobody is at fault. Although there is no definite cause of autism - scientific evidence points to genetics, possible chemical prenatal exposure, the parental age at conception, maternal nutrition, and infections during pregnancy and early development. Blaming parents damges relationships and takes the focus away from finding therapy for the loved ones affected by Autism.
Fiction: Vaccines, MMR Vaccines in particular, cause Autism.
Fact: The study that first sparked this claim was, if I may be frank, so not kosher on so many levels (there will be more said about this in the future). There is no relationship between receiving vaccine shots and the occurrence of autism. This myth is actually really harmful because it dissuades many concerned parents away from getting their kids flu shots, leading to multiple incidents of preventable childhood deaths.
And lastly, on a happier note...
Fiction: Autism shortens life spans.
Fact: With the proper support and treatment, autistic children have the potential to lead long and healthy lives.
*Note that the great increase may be compounded by the fact that the methods of diagnosing autism has become more efficient
**For greater information on the different types of autism disorders, please check out our fellow blog: http://www.humanologyproject.org/autism-as-a-disorder/
Center for Disease Control. 2013. "Data and Statistics." Retrieved Sep 15, 2013, from http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html.
Autism Speaks. 2013. "What is Autism." Retrieved Sep 15, 2013, from http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism.
South Asian Autism Awareness Center. 2013. "Myths & Stigma." Retrieved Sep 10, 2013, from http://saaac.org/about-autism/myths-stigmas/.