Have you heard of autism? While you may have heard of this condition mentioned in the news, on a TV show or even know someone who is affected by it, you might not know exactly what it is.

Autism is a physical condition that has been attributed to abnormal biology and chemistry in the brain. The resulting psychological implications cause those affected by it to experience challenges with social interaction and/or communication. Some affected individuals have restricted interests and others may demonstrate repetitive behaviours. Because autism affects different people differently, it is known as a spectrum disorder.

Fast fact: One in every 150 children has some form of autism; more boys are affected than girls.

Children are typically diagnosed with autism after an extensive evaluation of symptoms. These symptoms can include difficulty in social situations due to an inability to read and respond to emotions and the tendency to “over think” standard niceties. An example of this might be when a person says “How are you?” and someone with autism responds by freezing (not knowing how to respond) or panicking and offering way too much information in response. Other symptoms include increased sensitivity to noise, light and other stimuli. More sever forms of autism can result in an individual feeling disconnected from the world around him/her and the people living in it.

The cause of autism remains unknown but experts think it to be a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Extensive research is constantly being conducted, looking at possible neurological, infectious, metabolic, and immunologic factors that may be involved in autism.

Did You Know?
If one member of a family has autism, there is a higher chance that another child in the family may also have autism or a similar disorder.

One of the most well-known and highly accomplished adults living with autism is Dr. Temple Grandin. She not only works as a Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University, but also speaks internationally on the subjects of autism and cattle handling. Her early success can be attributed to her ability to think like the animals she was working with. While most people aren’t able to make this connection, her autism made it possible for her to see things in a way other humans were unable to.

Asperger Syndrome (AS) is similar to autism. Those living with AS tend to have normal intelligence and language development but still experience some impaired social skills, communication and coordination.

Learn more!

Pub Med Health Autism

Autism Canada

Autism Society of Canada

KidsHealth - Autism

KidsHealth - Asperger Syndrome

References

Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network Surveillance Year 2002 Principal Investigators; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevalence of autism spectrum disorders--autism and developmental disabilities monitoring network,14 sites, United States, 2002. MMWRSurveill Summ. 2007 Feb 9;56(1):12-28. [PubMed]

Bertoglio K, Hendren RL. New developments in autism. PsychiatrClin North Am. 2009;32:1-14.

First published July 19, 2011

Susan Crawford-Young

I am an Instructor at Red River College in Winkler Manitoba. I have a Master's degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Certification in Education. Although teaching science and math is my main job I also like to teach and study embryology and human physiology. I am also a visual artist who likes to do photography, painting and pottery as well as write cartoon science articles.


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