Autism is a spectrum disorder that affects how people see the world. Some people with autism are considered high-functioning, which means they can get through life with little to no extra help. Other people with autism have developmental delays and can’t take care of themselves without help. Autism usually makes social interactions more difficult, but most autistic people can learn social norms and queues. Every person with autism can enjoy a meaningful and productive life with the right support.

Related resource: Top 25 Online Master’s in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Signs and Symptoms

Children with autism usually show symptoms at around 18 to 24 months. They might show developmental delays like not speaking or responding to others. As they age, these children might show compulsive behaviors, avoid eye contact, or repeat movements or sounds. Autism usually shows up in different ways in different people. Some people with autism aren’t diagnosed until adulthood. Often, autistic people can have other mental health or developmental issues, like obsessive-compulsive disorder, sensory disorders or speech impediments. The best way to determine if a child or adult has autism is to consult with a trained physician, preferably one with experience diagnosing autism.

Autistic people themselves report having trouble understanding others. They might feel like an anthropologist from Mars who just doesn’t get Earth culture. One major issue for people with autism is that it’s not a visible disability. Unlike a physical disability, autism doesn’t make people look different. This means coworkers, neighbors or police officers don’t realize they’re interacting with an autistic person. Some people solve this by wearing an ID bracelet, but it’s important for the public to learn how autistic people behave.

Prevalence

Some people think autism is becoming more common, or prevalent, in modern society. They might attribute this to unsafe vaccinations, poor parenting or other factors. Although the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has collected data showing an increased prevalence of autism in the United States, it would be wrong to interpret this to mean that autism is becoming more common. The reality is that autism has always been around. It wasn’t until recently that medical professionals and parents knew the facts about autism and how to diagnose it accurately. As more and more Americans learn the signs and symptoms of autism, it makes sense for more and more people to be diagnosed with the disability.

Treatment and Support

There is no cure for autism, according to the National Autistic Society. Autism is not caused by a bacteria or virus that can be treated with medicine. No one really knows the exact cause of autism, but researchers think genetics play a large part. The environment can have some effect as well. Many people with autism have successful, happy lives, especially with some therapy to help navigate the frustrations of a non-autistic world. The best way to support people with autism is learning about the disease, being open to social differences and volunteering at an autism-related charity.

People with autism can work as doctors, teachers, and researchers. They contribute to society in their own unique ways, just like everyone else. With a little help from strangers to make the world a more welcoming place, autistic people can truly thrive.