Autism is one of the most common disorders in the U.S. More than 5 million people in the U.S. have autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Despite the prevalence, autism is often misunderstood. In an attempt to provide understanding, many organizations have launched campaigns focused on “autism awareness.” Most recently, there has been a shift towards “autism acceptance.”
People with autism may experience a variety of social, communication, or behavioral challenges. They may encounter educational, employment, or human rights discrimination. If you know someone with autism, learning more about autism acceptance can support you to understand their perspective and interact with them more successfully.
What Is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder, known as ASD, or most commonly, autism, is classified as a neurological developmental disorder. Those with autism experience difficulty with social skills, communication, and behavior. Specifically, those with autism may experience:
- Difficulty having conversations or failure to initiate or respond to social interactions
- Inability to understand non-verbal communication like eye contact or body
- An absence of interest in peers or making friends
- Repetitive motor or speech movements
- Insistence on things being the same and difficulty adhering or adjusting to changes in routine
- Restricted and fixated interest
- Hyper/hyporeactivity to sensory input
The severity of these symptoms varies depending on the person. They can also increase or decrease in severity. Most people with autism live independent lives. Some may have more severe issues that require a higher level of care. One way to decrease the severity of these symptoms is to receive Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy (ABA). ABA teaches the person to develop replacement behaviors.
How Does Autism Affect People?
Autism affects the individual, their family unit and those around them. This can result in a large impact on the family unit and requires their time, patience and support. While most diagnoses occur in early childhood, there have been increased diagnoses in teens and adults. This is a result of more autism awareness.
Autistic people sometimes have other conditions like ADHD, anxiety, depression, genetic disorders, and epilepsy. These diagnoses can lead to difficulty managing other parts of life like sleeping and toileting. Through ABA therapy, therapists will work with other specialists to develop a comprehensive treatment package that supports all needs.
While autism is not an intellectual disability, autistic people may experience intellectual disabilities in addition to their autism diagnosis. According to the CDC, about 30% of children with ASD also have an intellectual disability.
Children with Autism
People mainly associate autism with childhood, although it is a lifelong disorder. More teenagers and adults are being diagnosed each day. Current estimates suggest that 1 in 54 children in the U.S. is autistic. Additionally, about 78% of children who are autistic have another condition, like ADHD.
Generally, an autism diagnosis occurs around 18 months but can occur earlier or later, depending on the symptoms a person displays. Autism affects children of every race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. There is as much as a 19% chance that parents who have a child with ASD will have another child who is autistic if they choose to have a second child.
You may have heard that autism is more likely to occur in boys. Autism is diagnosed in boys four times more than in girls. Experts are continuing to research the reasons for this. However, some believe females are underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Young girls can sometimes hide their symptoms in ways that make them more challenging to diagnose.
Nearly 40% of autistic children have difficulties with communication and language skills. ABA Therapists work with other specialists, like Speech-Language Pathologists, to aid autistic children in enhancing communication skills.
Many parents may not notice that their child has a developmental delay, and it’s important to note that children develop at their own pace. However, ongoing developmental delays may be an indication of autism. For most children with autism, early intervention is key to treating those delays.
Other health issues may affect children with autism, like obesity. Data shows that over 50% of autistic children are overweight or at risk of being so. This can cause a range of other health issues, like heart disease and diabetes.
Adults with Autism
The issues that affect children with autism may carry on into adulthood. Since weight can be a problem for children with autism, there’s also a high prevalence of type 2 diabetes in adults with autism. Autistic adults are three times more likely to develop this type of diabetes.
Autistic adults may experience employment difficulties. About 85% of college grads affected by autism are unemployed, and they may face discrimination when looking for employment.
Another shocking statistic is that even those who do work in their early 20s are sometimes not paid. There are 42% of autistic youth who work full-time after high school and earn less than minimum wage.
Strengths of People with Autism
Many autistic people are creative. Having creative outlets in childhood may help autistic children express their talents. Providing opportunities to make music, dance, draw or paint may allow autistic children to channel their talents into something amazing.
Not all children on the autism spectrum have creative talents. Some may have high intellect. This is called hyperlexia, which means they can read above their age or grade level.
Many autistic people are successful and independent. Many have jobs and contribute to their community. Autistic people are most likely to be successful when they receive appropriate services and support.
What Is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy?
The only proven treatment for autism is ABA Therapy. This evidence-based treatment has been shown to help all people on the autism spectrum and is considered best-practice treatment by the U.S. Surgeon General.
ABA therapy focuses on reinforcement. ABA Therapists teach appropriate behaviors and provide reinforcement when the person engages in the behavior. ABA Therapy helps the individual reach their goals. ABA Therapy supports parents of autistic individuals by giving them tools to help their loved one use skills outside of therapy. Many parents of autistic individuals have seen a reduction in stress by working with an ABA Therapist.
If you live in New Hampshire or Massachusetts, contact us to learn about ABA Therapy in our treatment centers and in-home.