Autism is a condition that affects how a person communicates, interacts with others and relates to the world around them. Say’s Dr Michael, its most basic, autism is characterized by difficulties in social interaction and a lack of spontaneous or flexible behavior. These symptoms can range from mild to severe, and may include repetitive behaviors. Autism is often referred to as an “umbrella” condition because it includes several distinct but related syndromes that are called autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).
Autism is a spectrum
On the spectrum, there are varying levels of autism. Some people are more severely affected than others, but at its core, autism is a neurological disorder. It’s not something that can be cured with a simple treatment or medication.
- Autism is not caused by vaccines: The overwhelming majority of scientific evidence shows that vaccines do not cause autism. In fact, they’re one of the most effective ways to prevent it. (Read more about why here.)
- There is no known cause for autism: Though researchers have studied many possible causes, none has been proven as a reason for the development of this condition in any child.*
There is no known cause for autism
You may have heard that autism is caused by vaccines, or by bad parenting, or by mercury in the environment. These are all theories and have no scientific evidence to support them. In fact, there is no single cause for autism; it’s likely the result of a combination of factors that interact with a person’s biology to produce the varying symptoms seen in people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Theories on what causes ASD range from genetics to environmental factors such as exposure to chemicals while in utero. Other possibilities include an imbalance between excitatory brain neurons and inhibitory ones, defects in neurotransmitters (chemicals that transmit signals between neurons), and/or problems with how DNA replicates during cell division.
Many people on the spectrum have higher-than-average intelligence
Many people on the spectrum are highly intelligent. While some individuals on the spectrum have IQs in the genius range, others have average or above-average cognitive abilities. One study found that about 80% of children with autism or Asperger’s syndrome had an intelligence quotient (IQ) above 70 and are considered to be intellectually gifted.
People on the spectrum often find it difficult to make and maintain social connections.
People on the spectrum often find it difficult to make and maintain social connections. This can be due to a number of factors, such as:
- Difficulty understanding non-verbal communication such as facial expressions, eye contact, and body language.
- Difficulties in processing information quickly enough to engage in a conversation. This can result in difficulty following conversations or multi-tasking during a conversation (e.g., listening while completing a task).
- Difficulties with reading social cues from others (e.g., knowing when someone is bored or interested).
The most important thing to know about autism is that it comes in many different forms.
The most important thing to know about autism is that it comes in many different forms. Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning that it affects different people in different ways. People with autism may have some of the same symptoms and experiences, but they can also be very different from one another.
There’s no known cause for autism, but there are many theories. These include genetics and environment factors like parental age or exposure to chemicals during pregnancy; we’re just not sure yet!
As you can see, there are many different faces of autism. This is why it’s so important to understand what it means to be on the spectrum and how to support people with autism in your community. The best way to learn about these facts and figures is by talking with someone who has a firsthand experience—for example, by attending an event hosted by an organization like Autism Speaks or learning about resources available from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).