Are you sure you know everything about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) already? Regardless of whether you are a disability support worker, have a family member or friend with ASD or even you yourself have ASD - we dive into some facts and figures that might surprise you, in order to spread awareness and education on the condition:
1. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is an Umbrella Term
Up until 2013, a number of conditions were separate but have since been grouped under ASD – including classic autism, Asperger’s syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDDNOS). ASD is a developmental disorder mostly affecting social interaction and communication. Abnormal behaviour, play and interests are also noted in children with ASD. Autism is not a mental health condition, it stems from developmental differences in in a person’s brain structure and neurotransmitters.
2. About 1 in 70 Australians have Autism Spectrum Disorder
Current estimates state that approximately 353,880 people in Australia have ASD. This number has risen 40% in recent years, not necessarily because more people have autism, but more due to recent changes in diagnostic criteria, greater awareness in the wider community and that health professionals have become better at identifying the signs and diagnosing the condition.
3. No Two People with ASD are Exactly the Same
Everyone with ASD is unique in their own way, and the condition can vary from mild to moderate or severe in a person. The disorder is referred to as a ‘spectrum’ due to the extensive range of features among those with ASD. Some of the symptoms of autism include difficulties in making eye contact, a sensitivity to changes in noise, light or other sensory outputs, as well as the inability to sustain a long back-and-forth conversation.
4. More Boys and Men have a diagnosis of Autism than Girls and Women
While currently it is not known exactly why a gender gap exists, there are theories which attempt to explain it – such as shyness in a girl being considered ‘normal’ due to stereotypical social expectations of females.
5. The Exact Cause of Autism is Unknown
While research suggests it is a combination of developmental and genetic factors, currently the exact cause of ASD is unknown.
6. Celebrities with ASD include Albert Einstein, Dan Ackroyd and Susan Boyle.
Nobel-prize winning physicist Albert Einstein developed the theory of relativity, and is believed to have had Asperger’s syndrome. American-Canadian actor Dan Ackroyd from iconic films The Blues Brothers and Ghostbusters has been diagnosed with Tourette syndrome and Asperger’s syndrome. 10 million people tuned in to see performer Susan Boyle, who also has Asperger’s syndrome, sing I Dreamed a Dream on Britain’s Got Talent in 2008.
7. Autism was Recognised as early as the 1700s
Austrian-American psychiatrist, physician and social activist Leo Kanner first coined the term “infantile autism” in 1943, however the symptoms of autism were identified and documented as far back as the 1700s.
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