There is a stigma surrounding Autism, there always has been.
Since it was first recognized in the 1950s, Autistic people have often found themselves being shamed, ridiculed, looked at differently, and treated as if there is something wrong with them.
While the world may be developing a more open mind and broader understanding of Neurodiversity, society unfortunately still has a long way to go before individuals on the spectrum may finally feel true and unhindered acceptance.
But what is Autism exactly?
Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is defined by AutismSpeaks as “a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication.”
There are different types of Autism, and people are affected by it in different ways. In many cases, you would not even be able to tell that a person is on the spectrum without being told. This speaks volumes against the harmful misconception that individuals with Autism are not normal.
Let’s get into the types of Autism, and how they differ from one another.
What are some of the Types of Autism?
Autism is not one singular disorder, it is a spectrum.
While many people think Autism is one specific experience for everyone, we actually Autism to describe a plethora of experiences for people on the spectrum. The Autism spectrum can be broken down into different categories, though as of 2013, four categories including Autistic Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder not otherwise specified have been combined together under one broader category called Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Though the types have since been combined into one, it is still important to be aware of and know the differences between them.
- Autistic Disorder
- Asperger Syndrome
- Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
- Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)
What is Autistic Disorder?
Autistic Disorder is a developmental disorder that impacts the way an individual behaves and understands what is going on around them.
This diagnosis plays a role in how a person navigates socially with others which makes it very difficult to make and maintain friendships and relationships. Many people with Autistic Disorder have often been described as unempathetic and unable to read social cues. This form of Autism is very broad, and many of the symptoms and characteristics that fall under it may very well be those that are associated with any of the other types of Autism as well.
What is Asperger Syndrome?
People with Asperger Syndrome have a reputation for being incredibly intelligent and academically advanced. They are likely to have a very extensive vocabulary which can be particularly noticeable in children. Individuals with Asperger Syndrome might find they are triggered by certain sensory factors such as clothing that is too tight, music that is too loud, or lights that are too bright. As is true with people who have Autistic Disorder, those who have Asperger Syndrome are very likely to have difficulty interacting with others in social settings and reacting to things in a way that is considered against the social norm.
What is Childhood Disintegrative Disorder?
Childhood Disintegrative Disorder can be one of the more challenging forms of Autism because it affects, children, who are more vulnerable and less likely to understand. It is already challenging enough for a child to comprehend and grasp things with the constant learning and evolution that is happening in their developing minds. During childhood, we are learning how to navigate our way through life, and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder can have a huge impact on a child’s ability to work through these challenging times.
A child with Childhood Disintegrative Disorder will normally show signs early in life, likely around age three or four, of reversal in developmental areas such as cognitive skills, motor skills, and speech. Some children may show a reversal in all of these areas and some may show in only one or two. Childhood Disintegrative Disorder can cause a child a large amount of distress and fear, especially considering at a young age they have not reached the point in life where they are aware and can realize that they are Neurodivergent.
What is Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)?
Individuals who suffer from Pervasive Developmental Disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) are likely to fall under the category on the spectrum that involves showing much milder symptoms than others. People with PDD-NOS might still have a hard time adjusting and reacting in social situations, but overall they tend to have the ability to cope with their Neurodiversity much easier than those who may have another form of Autism. Sometimes it is difficult for those around them to remember that although people with PDD-NOS do have milder symptoms, they are still part of the spectrum nonetheless.
Is Autism a Disease?
One of the biggest misconceptions about Autism is that it is a disease. Autism is not a disease. Instead, Autism is classified as a developmental disorder.
When somebody refers to an Autistic person as having a disease, they are creating the illusion that Autistic people are sick, which could not be further from the truth.
Autism is not something that can be treated with medication, and it does not have to be. An individual who is Autistic is more than capable of living a happy, healthy, normal, and fulfilling life and should be treated no differently than those who are not on the spectrum. It can be incredibly harmful and confusing for people, especially children, to read and hear things that paint Autism as an illness that needs to be cured. Autistic minds are still healthy minds and some of the most beautiful minds that you will encounter in your life.
Is Autism Common?
Autism has only been around (in the name) since the 1950s, but since then it has become increasingly common for people to be diagnosed as Autistic. ich is great to see because it means that society is beginning to recognize the characteristics and traits that go along with Autism and become familiar with them.
The rates have been rising steadily for autism in the United States.
1 in 68 children has been diagnosed as autistic.
1 in 42 for boys and 1 in 189 for girls.
These numbers have been steadily on the rise. Although some people are sparking fear in themselves and others by referring to it as an epidemic, it is much more thought of that the reason for the steady increase is the fact that the world is more aware, better educated, and much more familiar with the symptoms of Autism than we used to be. It is important for people on the spectrum, particularly children on the spectrum, to be taught and aware that there are many others out there like them, and that they are not alone.
Autism and Relationships
Another common misconception surrounding people with Autism is that they are not capable of developing or maintaining a romantic relationship. The fact is, Autistic people are more than capable of finding meaningful relationships and falling in love. Autistic people go on dates just like the rest of us, they get married and have families of their own. Autism is not a disease and does not have to stand in the way of a person and their happiness or dreams. Romantic relationships are not the only relationships that people with Autism find success in. People who are on the Autism spectrum can still navigate their way through relationships with their friends, classmates, and coworkers as well.
How to Interact With Someone Who is Autistic
The absolute most important thing to remember when it comes to interacting with a person who is autistic is to treat them with the same kindness, dignity, and respect as you would someone who was not autistic. Autistic people are still people and that is something that everyone should be aware of. Though you should not treat an autistic person as if there is something wrong with them, there are things that you can avoid in order to ensure that they are more comfortable and avoid triggering them. If you are talking to an autistic person make sure that they are aware that you are there, do not jump out or touch them without them knowing. Avoid yelling or making unnecessary loud noises and make sure you do not make aggressive or rapid gestures at them. In all reality, nobody would enjoy interactions like these regardless of whether or not they are autistic. A person with autism might interact a bit differently with you than others that you know but that does not mean that you need to treat them as anything less.
Dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of and should never be treated as such. If you have questions regarding dyslexia or any other beautiful form of neurodiversity there are many resources out there to help educate and inform you, as well as work with you to better understand those around you who are autistic. There are workbooks, classes, and ThearaWay.
Theara and Autism
There was built to support Neurodivergent people, including Autistic people. We have several life hacks, resources, and blogs to support Autistic people as they navigate their Neurodivergent life.
We also specifically crafted the Theara Academy.
Autistic people are at the center of the Neurodiversity Movement, and without the work done by the Autistic Rights Movement in the 1980s, Neurodivergent people would not be where they are today.
The Theara Academy
Theara has created a community and resource hub for all Neurodivergent people, what Theara refers to as the Neurodiverse Collective. We created an innovative acronym-based digital training to ensure Neurodivergent live fulfilling and rewarding lives where they reach their goals, maintain meaningful relationships, and embrace who they truly are.
Here at Theara, we have 4 unique courses to support Neurodivergent people.
Know the Way at Home is a resource for parents of Neurodivergent children.
Know the Way at School is a resource to help parents, teachers, and educators navigate the Neurodivergent academic journey.
Know the Way at Work is a resource for employers, business owners, and HR representatives wanting to create a more inclusive and accommodating workplace for their Neurodivergent staff.
E.M.E.R.G.E. ND is for people wanting to remove the mask, heal the trauma and grief, reach their goals, and navigate their Neurodiversity.
Each course is tailored to a different stage of the Neurodivergent experience. Whether you’re a parent seeking to support your child, an educator wanting a more inclusive classroom, an employer ready to create a more diverse workforce, or a Neurodiverse person wanting to be themselves, then we have a course for you.