What is Autism?

I'm going to start but using the medical term for autism which is basically stamped across most sites. "Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and nonverbal communication". Now, we have to be mindful that there is a spectrum (range) of how autism effects each individual. No individual on the spectrum is alike as each person is unique in how autism affects their life. It's also important to remember that each day can be different for every individual based on factors like sleep, being under or over stimulated, anxiety, stress, and the list goes on. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects an estimated 1 in 54 children in the United States today. I really dislike when these facts come from the Center for Disease Control. I know it's the organizational name, but in no way, shape or form is autism a "disease". I have often heard people referencing autism as a disease. Rather than get upset, I know there's typically no ill intent behind someone using that term. Autism is a disorder. A simple reminder to someone can go a long way, rather than have myself stew with frustration. At the end of the day, we're all just learning.

Autism is influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Everyone has their own beliefs about autism and there's a lot of controversy around causes. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges. The ways in which people with autism learn, think and problem-solve can range from highly skilled to severely challenged. Some people with ASD may require significant support in their daily lives, while others may need less support and, in some cases, live entirely independently. Again as I've mentioned earlier, each individual is entirely unique.

Several factors may influence the development of autism, and it is often accompanied by sensory sensitivities and medical issues such as gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures or sleep disorders, as well as mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression and attention issues.

Signs of autism usually appear by age 2 or 3. Some associated development delays can appear even earlier, and often, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Research shows that early intervention leads to positive outcomes later in life for people with autism.

We often hear people reference Autism and Aspergers as separate disorders. Aspergers is now defined as one of the Autism Spectrum Disorders, rather than a disorder on its own. There are also several conditions that are co-morbid with autism 

* In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association merged four distinct autism diagnoses into one umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They included autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome

I can say that early intervention truly impacted our daughters life. I often hesitate using the term "intervention". I feel like that's a term used to "fix" someone. We need to see the term of early information instead as a way to help support the individual reach their full potential. Not to change who they are at their core regardless of what that looks like for them. We need to support these incredible individuals and their families.