April is Autism Awareness Month
At Dr. Heather Brown Orthodontics, we treat all types of patients, including patients with special needs, such as autism. It’s April, which is Autism Awareness Month, so it’s a great time to learn some of the facts about this neurological disorder.
Autism is often more formally called Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD. The word spectrum is important because it signifies how autism can have different effects on different people, and these effects can range from minimal to serious. Signs of autism begin revealing themselves in early childhood when autistic children are not keeping up with the same developmental milestones that their peers are meeting. For example, autistic toddlers may not develop language abilities along with their peers or they may not use their imaginations or participate in make-believe play.
Autism cannot be cured and continues on into adulthood. That being said, it can be treated, and treatments tend to be more effective with early diagnoses.
In general, some symptoms that are often found in people with autism concern:
Relationships and social interactions
People with autism may find it difficult to develop friendships. They may not be able to share achievements or interests with other people. Sometimes, they fail to see others’ perspectives or identify with others’ feelings. It may be difficult for them to make eye contact with others or read facial expressions.
Autistic children typically have delays in learning to speak, and more than a third of people with autism never learn to talk. Autistic people who can speak may sometimes fixate on a particular phrase and repeat it over and over. For autistic people with better communication skills, they still may not be able to pick up on non-literal meanings, humor, or sarcasm, and they may find it difficult to know what to say next in conversations.
Limited or fixated interests
An autistic individual may find a topic or hobby and focus on that to the exclusion of most anything else. They may also develop a compulsion for ordered, daily routines and become upset when the routine is not followed to specifications. Likewise, they may be extremely sensitive to stimulation and become disturbed by bright or flashing lights, loud noises, or situations where there’s a lot going on.
The exact causes of autism have not been identified. It’s believed that there’s a genetic component, as autism seems likelier to appear in certain families than others. There may also be environmental factors. For example, there may be links between autism and certain viral infections. On the other hand, while there is a belief out there that childhood vaccines are a cause of autism, no scientific link between the two has been discovered at this time, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Despite the challenges people with autism face, autistic individuals can lead full lives. Depending on where they fall on the spectrum, people with autism can develop friendships, fall in love, and have professional careers. They may also care about healthy teeth and nice smiles. We see them all the time.