April is World Autism Awareness Month
April is World Autism Awareness Month
What is Autism?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Autism Spectrum Disorder (aka ASD or autism) is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. People with autism often have difficulties with socialization, social activities, and social communication. They typically present with repetitive behaviors which are also called stereotypies. Children with autism often require particular types of instruction as they often have different ways of learning.
Who Has Autism?
Boys are diagnosed with autism 4.3 times more often than girls. Why? Girls don’t fit the typical profile of autism. For that reason, they are often undiagnosed. Girls are also able to mask their symptoms better than boys can.
Statistics Tell the Story. *
- 1 in 59 – the number of children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder in 2018.
- 1 in 34 – the number of boys diagnosed with ASD in 2016 according to data collected by the CDC.
- 1 in 145 – the number of girls diagnosed with ASD in 2016 according to data collected by the CDC.
- 4 – the age after which most children are diagnosed with ASD.
- 31% – the percentage of children with an intellectual disability due to ASD.
- 2-18% – the percentage of chances of parents having a second child with ASD after the first one.
- 36-95% – the percentage of chances that if one child has autism in a pair of twins, the other will be affected as well.
- 50% – of the total number of children with autism typically wander or ‘bolt’ from a safe setting if something catches their interest.
- 28% – the percentage of children with ASD who have self-harm behavior.
- 66.6% – of the total number of children with autism face severe bullying.
What People with Autism are Doing.
Although autism is called a disability or a disorder, many people with autism have used the characteristics of their condition to achieve greatness. The website Behavioral Innovations reports these remarkable people who either have a diagnosis of autism or display characteristic traits:
- Dan Aykroyd – Actor and Film Writer
Aykroyd is a comedic actor famous for his acting role and writing of the movie Ghostbusters released in 1984. His restricted interests have included ghosts and law enforcement.
- Albert Einstein – Scientist & Mathematician
There’s no way to know for sure, but many people believe that Albert Einstein would qualify as having autism spectrum disorder today.
- Daryl Hannah – Actress & Environmental Activist
Daryl Hannah is known for her roles in films such as Splash, Blade Runner, and Steel Magnolias. She received an autism diagnosis as a child. She was extremely shy around other people and continued to be very fearful of the spotlight as an adult. One of her special interests was watching movies which supported her career as an actress.
- Anthony Hopkins – Actor
Anthony Hopkins is an award-winning actor. He was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome as a child. Some of his traits of ASD include obsessive thinking, difficulty maintaining friendships, and looking at people with a unique perspective.
- Heather Kuzmich – Reality TV Contestant & Model
Heather Kuzmich participated in America’s Next Top Model in 2007. Some of her traits of ASD include not understanding jokes, difficulty understanding social dialogue about others, and challenges with eye contact.
- Tim Burton – Movie Director
It is still under speculation whether Tim Burton has autism. However, his long-time partner, Helena Bonham Carter, believes that he does. He has a unique perspective and gets intensely focused on his work sometimes to the extent that he no longer hears what is going on around him.
- Henry Cavendish – Scientist
Cavendish is a renowned scientist. He was born in 1731 and passed away in 1810. He is most known for discovering hydrogen. Traits of ASD experienced by Cavendish included avoiding company and difficulty with eye contact. He would communicate with his servants in writing instead of verbally. He ordered his meals by leaving a note on the table. He had a private staircase built on the back of his house so he could avoid the housekeeper, as well.
- Charles Darwin – Naturalist, Geologist, and Biologist
Charles Darwin is believed to have had autism spectrum disorder. Darwin was a very quiet person who avoided social interactions. He also preferred to communicate by writing rather than verbally and was very focused on his work.
- Emily Dickinson – Poet
Many believe that Emily Dickinson, a classical poet (1830-1886), would qualify as having autism. She was reserved around people. She had a basic and consistent way of dressing, and she was better at interacting with children than adults.
- Bobby Fischer – Chess Grandmaster
Fischer is known as a chess grandmaster and World Chess Champion. He did not like unstructured experiences and did not interact well with others.
- Bill Gates – Co-founder of the Microsoft Corporation
Bill Gates is thought to have autism. He displays a rocking motion, a monotoned speech pattern, and avoids eye contact with others.
- Barbara McClintock – Scientist and Cytogeneticist
McClintock was a notable scientist who made important breakthroughs in the study of chromosomes and how they change during the reproduction process. She is thought to be autistic. She was able to focus for great lengths on her interests, specifically her work, and she found social attention very aversive, so much so that she almost refused the Nobel Prize.
- Michelangelo – Sculptor, Painter, Architect, Poet
Michelangelo, a famous artist, was born in 1475. He is thought to have had an extreme fixation on his work. He had difficulty with emotional regulation, had trouble with social interactions, and thrived on strict routines.
- Sir Isaac Newton – Mathematician, Astronomer, & Physicist
Newton is another example of a historical figure who attempted to isolate himself from others as much as possible. He did not enjoy social interactions and was thought to be awkward in conversations with others.
- Jerry Seinfeld – Comedian
Jerry Seinfeld is thought to be one of the most popular comedians of all time. He openly recognizes himself as having autism spectrum disorder due to his history of social challenges and unique way of thinking literally.
- Satoshi Tajiri – Creator of Pokémon
Tajiri was fascinated with bugs as a child and expanded upon his interest in adulthood by creating Pokemon.
- Nikola Tesla – Inventor
It is believed that Tesla had many phobias and that he was very sensitive to light and sound. He also preferred to be alone and is thought to have been obsessed with the number three.
- Elon Musk – Entrepreneur
Elon Musk announced that he was on the autism spectrum while hosting the show, “Saturday Night Live,” in May 2021. More specifically, he stated that he was “the first person with Asperger’s” to host the show. Musk is one of the world’s richest people with a net worth of more than $150 billion.
- Clay Marzo – Professional Surfer
Marzo is a professional competitive surfer from Hawaii. He was diagnosed with autism as a child. He won many surfing competitions and had many accomplishments including two Perfect 10s during a National Scholastic Surfing Association at age 15.
- Dr. Vernon Smith – Professor
Smith is a professor of economics at Chapman University. He is thought to have basically invented the field of experimental economics which led to winning a Nobel Prize. He feels that his ASD has helped him, because he doesn’t feel social pressures to do things the way other people do them, so he is able to approach his work in a different way by being more open-minded and coming up with new ideas.
What Does All This Mean for Your Student with Autism?
Although your child may struggle in some areas, they may have untapped resources that could help fulfill their lives, lead them to independence, and help them make their mark on the world.
- Is my youngster getting an appropriate and meaningful education?
- Does my school district understand my child’s educational needs, including social-emotional instruction and communication skills?
An appropriate IEP may make all the difference for your child.