Society has numerous preconceived notions about autistic individuals.
Some believe that Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a mental illness, others think it impacts a person’s intelligence, and so on. But these beliefs are misconceptions because autism is a developmental disorder impacting a person’s perception of the world and their social interactions.
In fact, autistic individuals are usually more intelligent than they receive credit for. This article will shed light on some lesser-known, surprising facts about autism that every individual must know.
For starters, autism is more common than you might think. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in every 100 children worldwide develops this condition. Even so, this is just an average figure. That means the actual numbers could be even higher.
Let’s dive into other such interesting facts.
#1 Autism Is Not Synonymous with Low IQ
Many people equate autism with low intelligence and language disability. But nothing could be further from the truth. The National Library of Medicine found something interesting during its autism analysis.
The studies found autistic individuals to have a lot in common with higher-than-average IQ. These included correlates like larger brain size, enhanced visual and sensory capabilities, more intentional decision-making, a higher degree of brain growth, and greater synaptic functions.
The report concluded that autism is related to enhanced but imbalanced intelligence components. This is why many autistic individuals may also be prodigies. For instance, Stephen Wiltshire is an autistic man who drew the entire New York skyline (up to the last detail) from memory.
In truth, autism is a disorder affecting social interactions and communications. It makes it difficult for the affected individual to understand the importance of intonation, tone, sarcasm, and body language while speaking.
#2 The Condition Cannot be Diagnosed through a Physical Test
While autism can be detected even during the early days of childhood, it is still challenging to do so. This is because there is no medical test (like a blood test) that helps in its accurate diagnosis.
Doctors analyze a child’s behavioral history and test their social communication skills to identify the disorder. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an individual with autism may exhibit the following symptoms:
- Avoiding eye contact or having difficulty maintaining it
- Showing no response to their names being called even by 9 months of age
- Uninterested in playing interactive games such as pat-a-cake
- Making no facial expressions to emotions like happiness, sadness, anger, etc.
- Displaying repetitive behaviors such as following certain rituals, laser-focus on certain parts of a toy, getting upset when a certain order is changed, etc.
- Strange sleeping and eating habits
- Delayed movement and language skills
- Showing a lack of fear or excessive fear
At least 20% of the cases are accompanied by seizures. Through these symptoms, doctors can diagnose autism even in children who are 18 months old.
#3 It May or May Not be in the Genes
One interesting fact about autism spectrum disorder (according to the CDC) is that this condition is mostly found in children born to older parents. This would include fathers above 40 years and mothers above 35 years of age.
In many cases, autism is linked to a genetic disorder or gene mutation. But that is not always true. Environmental health risks are also involved, such as certain medications during pregnancy. The same has even landed people in the court.
One such medication that many parents have severely criticized is Tylenol – a pain-reliever drug used to manage headaches and fever. Studies have shown an increased correlation between expectant mothers who consumed Tylenol frequently and their children being diagnosed with autism or ADHD in childhood.
Tylenol and its severe effects during pregnancy have been known for a while. However, it was only in late 2022 that Tylenol class action lawsuits were filed in Federal Court. TorHoerman Law notes that most Tylenol autism claims were related to manufacturers like Wal-Mart, Costco, Safeway, Rite Aid, CVS, and Walgreens.
The Tylenol lawsuit for autism also included developmental illnesses like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), among others. All autistic children 17 years or younger whose mothers consumed Tylenol during pregnancy fall within the eligibility bracket.
Cases of autism due to prenatal exposure to drugs are rising. So, it’s no longer in the genes alone.
#4 There Is No Cure for This Condition
To date, autism has no cure. According to the Mayo Clinic, early recognition plays a key role in offering the child with adequate support for learning. These include occupational and behavioral therapies. There may also be education and communication therapists involved.
Children who exhibit hyperactivity may be prescribed some oral medications to mitigate health risks and control symptoms. The transition period from adolescence to adulthood is especially challenging on the social front.
It is widely believed that autism does not get worse with age. However, the symptoms may change over time depending upon early therapy, the individual’s personal coping abilities, and more.
#5 Dogs Are Among the Most Autistic-Friendly Creatures
On a general note, dogs are among the friendliest and most heart-warming beings to have around. But their impact on autistic support is incredible. Research conducted by the University of Missouri’s Human-Animal Interaction was published in a journal titled, ‘Journal of Pediatric Nursing.’
Of the surveyed families with autistic children, 94% reported that their child shared a solid bond with their dog. It is the furry friend’s loyalty and non-judgmental love that enabled such a strong bond.
Now, it is important to note that not every dog breed is suitable for autistic children. For example – breeds like dachshunds and cocker spaniels could get aggressive and are prone to bite. Similarly, breeds like Japanese chin and Italian greyhound are too fragile. Among the best autistic-friendly breeds include the golden retriever, Labrador, Bichon Frise, and Saint Bernard.
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Autism continues to remain the fastest-growing neurodevelopmental disorder. However, advancements are underway to empower affected individuals so they can also enjoy a high quality of life.
The latest breakthrough in its treatment is pressure chamber therapy, as discovered by Tel Aviv University. In an in-vitro study, it was discovered that this therapy not only reduced brain inflammation but also improved social functioning.
The findings published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences also talk about hyperbaric medicine, known to enhance oxygen and blood supply to the brain for improved cognitive function. Though there is still a long way to go, it does look like much progress has already been made. Perhaps a cure is just around the corner.