What is Autism?

Fortunately, autism awareness is increasing in today’s society, but there are still many misconceptions about what autism is and is not. This blog post will not be able to explain fully the depth of this statement, but will aim to clarify and elucidate various common characteristics of autism to promote further understanding. Autism is often characterized by difficulty socializing with others and understanding other individuals’ thoughts, as well as identifying various social cues. For example, identifying appropriate voice volume or certain conversational topics could be difficult. Additionally, autism is traditionally characterized by sensory sensitivity, so many individuals with autism can be significantly affected by light, sounds, temperature, touch, etc. Communication challenges are also common and can present in both writing and verbal expression.


So, what actually goes on inside the autism brain? That is the million-dollar question since there is not much known yet about what causes autism. However, autism-focused research efforts are increasing; for instance, John Hussman (from the Hussman Institute for Autism), posits that there is difficulty in coordinating information across various parts of the brain, primarily among executive functioning (i.e., higher-level thinking), sensory input, and motor coordination. As a result, some individuals with autism have expressed difficulty in wanting to do something, but are challenged in how to coordinate and express the movements needed to do so. This struggle was once described by someone as like trying to write with a non-dominant hand every day.


Understanding more about those with autism can promote more inclusive practices across numerous environments, such as school, the workplace, home, and general community settings. It is absolutely critical to remember, though, that every person with autism is unique and has differently abilities and challenges. Furthermore, it is important to recognize the strengths of every person with autism and to provide these individuals with the opportunities to display such strengths. One excellent example of this is the “dancing barista from Starbucks.” This barista has autism and dances to help him more effectively concentrate on the task at hand since for him, activity promotes focus. By further understanding autism and providing any necessary accommodations to encourage success, we can increase autism inclusion in all walks of life. Remember to not only learn more about autism, but also to learn about the unique person who has autism.


Written by Catherine F., Novastar Prep Coach.


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