Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a rather peculiar and inconspicuous topic, which is still not completely comprehensible to a significant number of people despite having a severe impact on the lives of millions of individuals. When we discuss ASD, we are exploring a vast realm of developmental processes that take place from childhood into a person’s adult years, as well as defining the ways people make meaning of the world around them. The term ‘spectrum’ is most appropriate here because the range and variation of autism is simply unexplainable since every individual is unique and no two people with this diagnosis are the same. Some might display difficulties in social functioning but might be highly knowledgeable in math and problem-solving, or have severe problems with speech, but be a gifted artist.

A reasonable self-education on ASD does not only entail identifying the signs and signals from which it results; it means accepting and valuing the ways of perceiving and handling the overall situation of ASD people. From the analysis of the field of what causes ASD, how one can describe it, and the experiences of those living with it, this article will seek to increase its audience’s understanding and empathy for this multifaceted disorder.

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A Brief Journey to Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder

ASD is an early developmental disorder that is characterized as a lifelong developmental disability that affects a person’s ability to understand their surroundings, communicate, and relate to others. They have issues in social interactions and communication and might display repetitive behaviors or have obsessive interests. Again, the word ‘spectrum’ is important here, because it emphasizes how diverse the disorder is in how it manifests in each person. Some people may experience relatively small problems, whereas others need a large amount of assistance to perform basic activities. Fortunately, there are well-substantiated autism facts and statistics that we can use to study details and numbers in more depth and shed light on a topic that is important but which seems to be frequently overlooked. However, one should be aware that it’s these wide-ranging experiences that make ASD what it is – complex and special.

Breaking Down the Risk Factors

Although the source of Autism Spectrum Disorder is still not fully discovered, a confirmed fact is that the factors entail genetics and environment. Genes are a factor, a significant one it seems, though findings have suggested that it might not be a single gene that influences, but many. For example, if one of the children has been diagnosed with ASD, the odds for other children in that family rise. This is particularly the case in such conditions that affect identical twins because both are likely to be affected unlike in the case of fraternal twins. 

It should also be noted that external factors exert influence on development, especially during prenatal development.  An increased risk of ASD has been associated with factors such as advanced parental age, particular illnesses during pregnancy, and certain drugs. Furthermore, some factors that may play a role include birth complications, pre-term birth and low birth weight, difficult delivery, and the like. All of these factors combined give quite a complex picture of what may put one at risk of developing ASD. 

Dealing with ASD by Being Aware of the Early Warning Signs

In the case of ASD, the warning signs must be detected right on time. Normally, manifestations of this condition commence in early childhood, most probably before the age of three. If your child has not started talking within the expected age, or if you notice that they do not make eye contact or use sign language to communicate, or if they don’t seem to care for other kids or other people – those might be one of the first signs. The characteristics you should observe are repeated movements, insistence on playing a particular game or engaging in specific interests, and difficulties when it comes to change. 

The process of diagnosis is based on the assessment of these behaviors and their effects on the everyday life of an individual. Based on the guidelines of the DSM-5, ASD is characterized by current difficulties in social communication and interpersonal interaction and those restricted patterns of interest and repetitive behavior. In most cases, there has to be coordination of physicians who specialize in pediatricians and developmental psychologists, in addition to speech therapists before they can diagnose a child.

Accepting the Diverse Nature of Autism

ASD is very diverse, which is reflected in the variety of problems and experiences the individuals with the disorder meet daily. There are ASD patients, some of whom might be of average or even superior intelligence who can handle their condition without much issue. Some may have problems with learning and need assistance for the rest of their lives, suffering from intellectual disabilities. 

On the end of the spectrum, there is what is referred to as high-functioning autism or Asperger’s syndrome. They could have average or above-average intelligence and well-developed language skills; however, they present significant inadequacies in social skills and display a lot of preoccupation. On the other hand, there are those with severe autism functioning at the intellectual level of a two-year-old, may not be verbal, may be hyperactive with no focus, and may need close assistance in daily activities. For this reason, individuals must become knowledgeable about the variability as well as create an acceptance of it to be able to effectively assist those on the spectrum.

The Lives of People with Autism Spectrum Disorder

However, the scientific and clinical means of comprehending ASD are not sufficient enough; one must also listen to the experiences of those who live with the disorder. It is also common to hear people with ASD refer to themselves as being ignored, or do not fit. Some would like to see more tolerance for the struggles people with ASD have and for them not to be seen as disabled, but as experiencing the world in a manner that is different from others.

Recent self-advocacy by autistic people means that the focus should be placed on the positive aspects of ASD and the potential that many individuals with the disorder have. Such a change of thinking is in line with the neurodiversity paradigm, which argues for bothering and embracing variation in neurological wiring.

ASD is a complex and nuanced disorder, which manifests itself differently depending on the case. Raising awareness will allow the elimination of misconceptions and create a better environment that will welcome everyone. This is a progressive process of understanding ASD and further research, advocacy, and compassion contribute to a better comprehension of the issue and the people who experience it.

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Last Update: June 11, 2024