Autism awareness really is growing, but harmful misconceptions still remain (2023)

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Instagram and TikTok have been flooded with content made for and by neurodivergent people in recent years. In turn, many people have come across these videos and had life-changing realizations that they might be autistic or have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder themselves — especially women, nonbinary folks and people of color, who are much more likely to go undiagnosed. Autism and ADHD were among the most Googled mental health terms in 2021, eclipsed only by searches about anxiety and depression.

Given this (much-needed) growing awareness, it’s unsurprising that we’ve gotten a number of great questions about ADHD and autism from Group Therapy readers. But before getting to those, I wanted to lay some groundwork. There’s so much I myself still don’t know about neurodivergence, and I figured that a lot of our readers might be in the same boat.


So for the next three weeks, I’ll be writing a three-part series that explores the legacy of autism and the many misconceptions that still remain; the overlap between autism and ADHD; and the growing movement to self-diagnose neurodivergence. As always, you’re welcome to share your thoughts, questions and points you think we’ve missed.

Before we dive in, a quick note on the evolving concept of neurodiversity and the language and terms you’ll see in our series.

“Neurodiversity” was coined in 1998 by Australian sociologist Judy Singer, who describes herself as being “likely somewhere on the autistic spectrum.” Though the idea originated in the autism community, all that falls under the umbrella of neurodivergence — which describes people who have a mind that functions differently from what society considers typical — has expanded to include ADHD, dyslexia and many other conditions.

Additionally, like any other diverse community, some people in the autism community prefer to be called autistic or use the word as a noun, which you’ll see below. Others prefer what’s called “people first” language, in which someone is described as a person with autism. And some people do not like the term “neurodiverse,” and some do not consider autism a disability. When in doubt, it’s generally helpful to politely ask a friend or loved one what their preferences are, rather than assuming. You can read more about language by visiting the National Center on Disability and Journalism style guide.

All right, let’s dive into Part 1 of our series.

What is autism?

Autism is a neurological and developmental condition that affects how people interact with others, communicate, learn and behave. Most researchers now believe that autism is not one single entity but a cluster of underlying conditions that “produce a distinctive constellation of behavior and needs that manifest in different ways at various stages of an individual’s development,” writes journalist Steve Silberman in his great book, “NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity.” Scientists have identified more than 200 genes involved in autism and similar neurodevelopmental conditions.

There are many, many different ways that people experience autism. “Autistic people are as different and varied as the human experience itself,” said Eric Garcia, a senior Washington correspondent for the Independent and author of the book “We’re Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation.”

A more nuanced, expansive view of autism has been a long time coming. At the same time, autism wasn’t formally studied by medical establishment until the 1940s, making it a relatively new field of research, one that has shape-shifted immensely over the past eight decades.

(Video) Myths and Facts about Autism | Myth Busting Autism #autismday #worldautismday #mythandfact

Before 1980, when autism first appeared in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM)which is more or less the Bible of psychiatry — the disability was described as a form of childhood schizophrenia, and it was thought to be caused by cold and unemotional parenting (a theory that wasn’t disproven until the ‘60s and ‘70s). Parents in this era were routinely told that they had no choice but to institutionalize their autistic children.

The addition of Asperger’s syndrome to the DSM in 1994 broadened the diagnostic boundaries of autism, and introduced to the public the concept of autism as a spectrum instead of a uniform condition. But this diagnosis also brought with it the labels of “high-functioning” and “low-functioning” (we’ll return to that in a minute), and activists and scholars called into question whether there was actually any meaningful difference between Asperger’s and the rest of the spectrum. Asperger’s was removed from the DSM in 2013 and folded into the autism spectrum of disorders. Though some people still call themselves “Aspies,” others dropped the self-descriptor when it was revealed that the man whom the condition was named after was a supporter of the Nazi regime during World War II.

“The common thread between most of these changes is that autistic people didn’t have a say in them,” Garcia told me. “If you don’t have the input of autistic people, then the systems are going to inherently fail them.”

Common experiences of autistic people

These are the characteristics that many autistic people have in common, according to the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, a national grassroots disability rights organization run by and for the autistic community:

  • Thinking differently: “We may have very strong interests in things other people don’t understand or seem to care about. We might be great problem-solvers, or pay close attention to detail. It might take us longer to think about things. We might have trouble with executive functioning, like figuring out how to start and finish a task, moving on to a new task, or making decisions.”
  • Routines are important for many autistic people. “It can be hard for us to deal with surprises or unexpected changes. When we get overwhelmed, we might not be able to process our thoughts, feelings and surroundings, which can make us lose control of our body.”
  • Processing senses differently: “We might be extra sensitive to things like bright lights or loud sounds. We might have trouble understanding what we hear or what our senses tell us. We might not notice if we are in pain or hungry. We might do the same movement over and over again. This is called ‘stimming,’ and it helps us regulate our senses. For example, we might rock back and forth, play with our hands, or hum.”
  • Moving differently: “We might have trouble with fine motor skills or coordination. It can feel like our minds and bodies are disconnected. It can be hard for us to start or stop moving. Speech can be extra hard because it requires a lot of coordination. We might not be able to control how loud our voices are, or we might not be able to speak at all — even though we can understand what other people say.”
  • Communicating differently: “We might talk using echolalia (repeating things we have heard before), or by scripting out what we want to say … we may communicate by typing on a computer, spelling on a letter board, or pointing to pictures on an iPad. Some people may also communicate with behavior or the way we act.”
  • Socializing differently: “Some of us might not understand or follow social rules that non-autistic people made up. We might be more direct than other people. Eye contact might make us uncomfortable. We might have a hard time controlling our body language or facial expressions, which can confuse non-autistic people or make it hard to socialize.”
  • Processing feelings: “Some of us might not be able to guess how people feel. This doesn’t mean we don’t care how people feel! We just need people to tell us how they feel so we don’t have to guess. Some autistic people are extra sensitive to other people’s feelings.”

There are many people who recognize some of these traits in themselves but may not qualify for a diagnosis according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or the DSM.
Social psychologist Devon Price points out that there is no clear line that we as a society can draw in the sand where a person is unquestionably “autistic enough” to count as “disabled in the eyes of all clinicians.”

“There’s an immense gray area, and we often find that the relatives of autistic people exhibit numerous autistic traits,” said Price, an autism rights advocate and author of “Unmasking Autism: Discovering the New Faces of Neurodiversity.” “So do people with ‘sister conditions’ such as ADHD, Tourette’s, social anxiety disorder or sensory processing disorder. As a community, neurodiverse people are a wide, diverse tent — and it’s better that we all recognize this, and communicate across identities about our shared concerns and the struggles we have in common.”

Unpacking what you think you know about autism

Autism advocate Stephen Shore has famously said: “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”

Shore was rightly emphasizing the vast diversity within the autism spectrum. Unfortunately, many people understand autism as a collection of stereotypes that haven’t caught up with a more expansive understanding of what it means to be autistic.

Garcia noted that a long-standing stereotypical portrait of an autistic person is that of a middle- or upper-class white cisgender boy or man. This image has been fueled by the fact that, because of racial inequities in diagnosis and treatment, white children and those of higher socioeconomic status are more likely to be diagnosed than Black, Latinx and Asian children, as well as children from low-income families.

Women and nonbinary people have also been historically underdiagnosed, in large part because of “masking,” or the act of hiding autistic traits as a survival mechanism. Because of the social expectations placed on them, masking is more common among people socialized as girls.

Autism has also been perceived as existing at two poles: You can’t speak or work, or you’re an eccentric Silicon Valley “coder” type — “but no people in between,” Garcia said.

(Video) Episode 14: The Most Harmful Misconceptions About Autism

This binary speaks to the pernicious labels of “high-functioning” and “low-functioning” autism, which define autistic people by how neurotypical people perceive them, rather than how autistic people see themselves or what they need, Garcia and Price both stressed.

“Autistics may appear to function ‘highly’ because we can imitate neuro-conforming speech patterns well, or because if we have to, we can hold down a job — but if we only measure a person’s disability based on this limited viewpoint, we can’t appreciate how much pain and struggle goes into propping that illusion of functioning up. Autistic people who ‘mask’ as neuro-conforming in order to get by at school or at work often have no energy left afterwards for things like meal planning, cooking, cleaning their house, or even socializing or pursuing beloved hobbies,” Price said.

And those labels are just too simplistic to capture the broad spectrum of autistic gifts and challenges. Garcia said he knows plenty of people who can speak and are brilliant on social media, but they’ve also really struggled to get through high school and college. And he knows others who can’t speak but have college degrees and maintain successful careers. Who among these people should be described as “high-functioning”?

“I can complete a PhD dissertation and write books with ease, for example, but even after 35 years of social practice, I cannot approach a person cold and start up a conversation with them. I just can’t. I only learned how to cook this year,” Price told me. “I can’t follow complex verbal instructions. If I have too many in-person meetings at my job, I can’t sleep or eat and I storm around my house all night hitting myself on the legs and arms and in the head because I’m so overwhelmed. I am no different from my ‘low-functioning’ autistic peers, I just can hide certain traits a little bit better, for a short period of time, and at immense personal cost.”

Garcia and Devon argue that regardless of how autism presents, it is a disability, one that our culture has by and large done a poor job of accommodating.

Prevailing models of “support” for autism have instead tried to cure it; a good example of this is applied behavior analysis, which involves as much as 40 hours a week of therapy and teaches social skills through unrelenting drills — which critics say forces people on the spectrum to hide who they are in the name of “maladaptive behavior reduction.” This is the most commonly used form of therapy for children with autism.

Instead of forcing autistic people to change, autism rights activists are pushing for our culture to change. “Designing appropriate forms of support and accommodation is not beyond our capabilities as a society, as the history of the disability rights movement proves,” Silberman wrote. “But first we have to learn and think more intelligently about people who think differently.”

Supportive innovations that have been suggested by autistic self-advocates and parents include designated quiet areas in schools, where an overwhelmed student could avoid a meltdown, and minimizing sensory input (like buzzing fluorescent lights), according to Silberman. Individualized education program, or IEPs, could focus on leveraging a child’s strengths and interests instead of addressing only their deficits.

I asked Price how a more nuanced understanding of autism might help shape the way neurotypical people respond to traits or behaviors that are outside of cultural norms.

“If neuro-conforming people could just broaden their sense of what ‘socially acceptable’ behavior is, a lot of people would get more free and more comfortable really quickly — and not just autistics,” Price said. “There’s no reason we need to act as though a person avoiding eye contact means they are a liar or being suspicious. Getting rid of that social expectation would help autistics move more freely through the world. It would also improve life for immigrants from cultures where eye contact is considered rude.

“Similarly, autistics could stand to gain a whole lot from us normalizing things like hand-flapping in public, wearing loose, comfortable clothes, giving honest, literal answers to questions instead of indirect and vague ones, and wearing sensory-friendly gear in public,” Price said. “These accommodations cost absolutely nothing, but if we simply accepted them, and accepted that some people move differently, feel differently and speak differently from others, every single one of us would experience greater social ease — not just disabled people, but anyone who has ever made the social mistake of being a little odd, which is just about all of us.”

(Video) CyberSciBar: Autism: Beyond Myth and Misconception

Until next week,


If what you learned today from these experts spoke to you or you’d like to tell us about your own experiences, please email us and let us know if it is OK to share your thoughts with the larger Group Therapy community. The email gets right to our team. As always, find us on Instagram at @latimesforyourmind, where we’ll continue this conversation.

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More perspectives on today’s topic & other resources

Autism is a spectrum” doesn’t mean what you think, writes author C.L. Lynch. I first read this piece during my training at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, where I’m a therapy intern, and it shifted my understanding of autism more than anything I’ve ever read. “Autism isn’t one condition,” Lynch writes. “It is a collection of related neurological conditions that are so intertwined and so impossible to pick apart that professionals have stopped trying.”

When Price first started writing about autism online in 2018, he received countless 5,000-plus-word emails from adults asking him, “Am I Autistic?” But for adults, there are no diagnostic criteria for autism. In Price’s book “Unmasking Autism,” he presents a clear definition of autism and the anatomy of masking. He talked with the L.A. Times about the book last year.

Autistic people didn’t always have a platform or readily available community. Now, they’re finding acceptance, confidence and connection on TikTok. “I went from thinking I was alone with my struggles and experiences to seeing many who understand me,” one person told BuzzFeed. “It was an overwhelming experience at first, but watching [autistic people] and communicating with them became the best thing to come from TikTok. I’ve learned more about myself through them.”

(Video) Book explores the autism experience and aims to dispel common myths - New Day NW

Other interesting stuff

Our sense of smell is deeply linked to our emotions. But what if those smells are also linked to traumatic memories? Researchers are finding success using a combination of artificial scents and virtual reality to treat people with severe cases of trauma, according to the Wall Street Journal’s “The Future of Everything” podcast.

“The death penalty is a divisive issue that has well-meaning people arguing for similar goals but by different means,” writes Dr. Joseph Thornton for the Florida Times-Union. “As a former psychiatrist treating Florida death row prisoners, I argue we should not be executing anyone,” he goes on — especially people struggling with serious mental health challenges.


Is autism awareness not enough? ›

In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated the prevalence to be about one in 54. Today we are likely to know someone who has a family member with autism or have a family member on the spectrum ourselves. And while awareness was great in 2007, it's no longer good enough in 2021.

Why is autism awareness so important? ›

Early identification of ASD is important so children and families can attain the services and support they need as soon as possible. With awareness, acceptance, and the appropriate supports, children with ASD can reach their incredible potential.

Is it possible to live a normal life with autism? ›

In conclusion, a person with autism can absolutely live a normal life with the right support and resources. Early intervention, education, and community support are key factors in helping people with autism achieve their goals and lead fulfilling lives.

Are people with autism aware they have autism? ›

It's a common misconception that autistic people are unaware of their condition. The truth is, many autistic people are very much aware of their autism and how it affects them. In fact, some say that it's through understanding and acceptance of their autism that they've been able to lead fulfilling lives.

How big is the problem of autism? ›

About 1 in 100 children has autism.

What are the main facts that everyone must understand about autism? ›

10 Facts about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • ASD affects about 1 in 68 children in the United States, with more children identified than ever before.
  • ASD is about 4 times more likely in boys than girls.
  • ASD affects children of all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.

What are the benefits of autism awareness training? ›

Autism awareness training can help you recognize the different forms of the condition in both children and adults. You can then adapt your approach accordingly to provide better support and care. Just like caring for a neurotypical child is different from interacting with a neurotypical adult patient.

What is the meaning of autism awareness? ›

Articles. Autism is a lifelong, nonprogressive neurological disorder typically appearing before the age of three years. The word “autism” means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and non-verbal communication and social interaction.

What is the main cause of autism? ›

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. Some people with ASD have a known difference, such as a genetic condition. Other causes are not yet known.

What can make autism worse? ›

10 things that increase autistic symptoms
  • 1 Stop getting enough sleep.
  • 2 Keep your melatonin low.
  • 3 Stay close to the Moon.
  • 4 Use blue monochromatic lights.
  • 5 Mess with the pineal gland.
  • 6 Stay away from oxytocin.
  • 7 Reduce myelin.
  • 8 Stop walking.
Oct 15, 2021

Which celebrities have autism? ›

Famous Celebrities With Autism
  • Woody Allen.
  • Dan Aykroyd.
  • Marty Balin.
  • Susan Boyle.
  • Tim Burton.
  • Tony DeBlois.
  • Jerry Seinfeld.
  • Bill Gates.

Is it true that everyone is on the autism spectrum? ›

Does Everyone Have Autism? Around 1 in 100 children are diagnosed with autism, and up to 30% of people may have at least one of the traits associated with the disorder. Not everyone has autism, but some of the symptoms might be common among families where autism is present in at least one person.

Can you be self aware and autistic? ›

In summary, self-awareness is an individual experience so it is unique to everyone. Understanding of the self can greatly vary in individuals with ASD due to the heterogeneous nature of the condition. It can be affected by their levels of cognitive functioning and adaptive behaviors.

What do people with autism see the world? ›

For people on the autism spectrum, the world is a bewildering place. With oversensitive sensory systems, they battle to process the maelstrom of information flowing into their brains. Often the result is sensory overload, leading to signature behaviours such as tantrums, anxiety and social withdrawal.

Which parent carries autism gene? ›

Since autism is less prevalent in females, autism was always thought to be passed down from the mother. However, research suggests that autism genes are usually inherited from the father. One of the most common questions asked by parents of children with autism is which parent carries the autism gene.

What is the hardest part of being autistic? ›

Due to the behavioural, information processing and sensory aspects of their diagnosis, many people on the autism spectrum often prefer familiar environments with a predictable routine. Restricted and repetitive interests, sensory processing differences and heightened anxiety can make even small changes stressful.

Can you be socially aware and autistic? ›

Some people on the autism spectrum may seek social opportunities and may initiate social interactions themselves, others may enjoy social situations and interactions when they are initiated effectively by others.

Can autistic people be socially aware? ›

Autistic folks may navigate the world and social interactions in a different way. That doesn't mean they don't have social skills. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) varies in how it may affect an individual.

Is autism awareness or acceptance? ›

Still, many support the shift from “awareness” to “acceptance”. For example, Lyric Holmans, creator of a blog called NeuroDivergent Rebel, tweeted: “Autism Awareness – knowing autistic people exist. Autistic Acceptance – accepting autistic people as they are, strengths and weaknesses.

What are the top concerns of autism? ›

A range of physical and mental-health conditions frequently accompany autism. They include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) problems.
  • Epilepsy.
  • Feeding issues.
  • Disrupted sleep.
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

What random things do people with autism do? ›

Many autistic people have intense and highly-focused interests, often from a fairly young age. These can change over time or be lifelong. It can be art, music, gardening, animals, postcodes or numbers. For many younger children it's Thomas the Tank Engine, dinosaurs or particular cartoon characters.

What do autistic people think about? ›

Non-autistic people tend to assess concepts before details, also known as top-down thinking. Autistic people take the opposite approach with bottom-up thinking and use details to build concepts. It may take longer to filter out sensory details with this approach, but you're less likely to miss important information.

How do you explain autism to a child without autism? ›

You can explain that autism is usually associated with difficulty in social and communication skills, repetitive behaviors, and adherence to routine. It also can be accompanied by sensory sensitivities and challenges with paying attention.

Is autism a disability? ›

Autism is a neurological developmental disability with an estimated prevalence of one to two percent of the American and worldwide population. The diversity of the disability means that each person's individual experience of autism and needs for supports and services can vary widely.

What are the three main points of autism? ›

Autism is one of a group of neurodevelopmental disorders known as pervasive developmental disorders (PDD). These disorders are characterized by three core deficits: impaired communication, impaired reciprocal social interaction and restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviors or interests.

What is the root of autism? ›

A common question after an autism diagnosis is what is the cause of autism. We know that there's no one cause of autism. Research suggests that autism develops from a combination of genetic and nongenetic, or environmental, influences. These influences appear to increase the risk that a child will develop autism.

Can trauma cause autism? ›

While autism is never caused by trauma, there may be something about living with autism that is inherently traumatic.

Is autism caused by neglect? ›

Autism is likely to have multiple genes responsible rather than a single gene. However, it is not caused by emotional deprivation or the way a person has been brought up.

What is the weakness of autism? ›

Kids with autism experience “deficits in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships, ranging, for example, from difficulties adjusting behavior to suit various social contexts; to difficulties in sharing imaginative play or in making friends; to the absence of interest in peers (DSM-5).”

What is a high functioning autistic person like? ›

High-functioning autism means that a person is able to read, write, speak, and handle daily tasks, such as eating and getting dressed independently. Despite having symptoms of autism, their behavior doesn't interfere too much with their work, school, or, relationships.

How does sugar affect autism? ›

7 foods to potentially avoid with autism

Sugar: Since children with autism may show signs of hyperactivity, it may be best to avoid sugar to maintain balanced sugar levels. Monosodium glutamate (MSG): Similar to sugar, MSG can cause overstimulation in the brain, leading to hyperactivity.

Who is the richest man with autism? ›

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.

What is the mental age of someone with autism? ›

Abstract Some children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) exhibit low mental age (Low-MA), defined here as cognitive functioning below 12 months.

Who is famous for genius autism? ›

Nikolas Tesla - Tesla was another genius who displayed characteristics of autism, having several extreme phobias, severe sensitivity to light and sound, and an obsession with the number 3. His work also created the modern world as we know it, hugely creative and inventive.

What looks like autism but is not? ›

There are other brain disorders that mimic autism symptoms, like ADHD and anxiety disorders, including selective mutism. Autism can be misdiagnosed as another disorder with some shared symptoms.

Can someone have autistic traits and not be autistic? ›

People with the BAP have some traits common to autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but not enough to have the disorder. But it's not comedians who have drawn scientific scrutiny for having the BAP: it's the parents and siblings of people who actually have autism.

Is ADHD a part of autism? ›

ADHD is not on the autism spectrum, but they have some of the same symptoms. And having one of these conditions increases the chances of having the other. Experts have changed the way they think about how autism and ADHD are related.

Can you be autistic and like touch? ›

These responses are often described as a general hypersensitivity, but they are more complex than that: Sometimes autistic people crave touch; sometimes they cringe from it. For many people on the spectrum, these sensations are so intense that they take measures to shape their 'touchscape.

Can you be autistic and sensitive? ›

Autistic people can experience both hypersensitivity (over-responsiveness) and hyposensitivity (under-responsiveness) to a wide range of stimuli. Most people have a combination of both. Many autistic people experience hypersensitivity to bright lights or certain light wavelengths (e.g., LED or fluorescent lights).

Can autistic people see emotion? ›

There is a persistent stereotype that people with autism are individuals who lack empathy and cannot understand emotion. It's true that many people with autism don't show emotion in ways that people without the condition would recognize.

What is the most autistic country in the world? ›

Autism Statistics by Country
#CountryAutism Rate
1United Kingdom700.07 per 100k
2Sweden661.85 per 100k
3Japan604.72 per 100k
4United States of America603.38 per 100k
71 more rows

Why is there so much autism in the world today? ›

Advances in diagnostic capabilities and greater understanding and awareness of autism spectrum disorder seem to be largely driving the increase, the Rutgers researchers said. But there's probably more to the story: Genetic factors, and perhaps some environmental ones, too, might also be contributing to the trend.

Do autistic people like other autistic people? ›

Although autistic people may struggle to interact with others, many autistic people have said they find interacting with other autistic people more comfortable.

Why is being autistic so difficult? ›

Due to the behavioural, information processing and sensory aspects of their diagnosis, many people on the autism spectrum often prefer familiar environments with a predictable routine. Restricted and repetitive interests, sensory processing differences and heightened anxiety can make even small changes stressful.

What's the chance of being autistic? ›

Autism Prevalence

In 2023, the CDC reported that approximately 1 in 36 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to 2020 data. Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls.

What is the lowest functioning autism? ›

What is Low Functioning Autism? Low functioning autism refers to children and adults with autism who show the most severe symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder and are diagnosed as having Level 3 ASD. They are usually unable to live independently and require support from a guardian throughout their lives.

Do autistic people worry more? ›

Research suggests autistic people are more prone to experiencing anxiety and estimates that up to half of all autistic people experience high levels of anxiety on a regular basis. If you or someone you know is struggling with high levels of anxiety, there is support and help available.

Why is autism so common now? ›

Advances in diagnostic capabilities and greater understanding and awareness of autism spectrum disorder seem to be largely driving the increase, the Rutgers researchers said. But there's probably more to the story: Genetic factors, and perhaps some environmental ones, too, might also be contributing to the trend.

Are high functioning autism smart? ›

They're just as smart as other folks, but they have more trouble with social skills. They also tend to have an obsessive focus on one topic or perform the same behaviors again and again.

What do people with autism struggle with? ›

Autistic people may:
  • find it hard to communicate and interact with other people.
  • find it hard to understand how other people think or feel.
  • find things like bright lights or loud noises overwhelming, stressful or uncomfortable.
  • get anxious or upset about unfamiliar situations and social events.

What is the number one cause of autism? ›

Although we know little about specific causes, the available evidence suggests that the following may put children at greater risk for developing ASD: Having a sibling with ASD. Having certain genetic or chromosomal conditions, such as fragile X syndrome or tuberous sclerosis. Experiencing complications at birth.

What is the life expectancy of someone with autism? ›

Level 3 autism has a lower life expectancy. Since this is the most severe category of them all, events and changes in the body can happen that harm their risk of having a long life. In some estimates, the life expectancy for Level 3 is 35 to 40 years old.

What is the least bad autism? ›

Level 1 autism is the mildest form of autism, but it is still defined as needing support. Some people with level 1 autism have difficulty in a mainstream classroom due to sensory challenges and are more comfortable in a smaller class setting.

What type of high functioning autism? ›

There are varying diagnoses within the category of autism, and under the umbrella of high functioning autism subtypes include asperger's syndrome, pathological demand avoidance, Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) — also known as atypical autism.

Do autistic people talk to themselves? ›

Yes, it's normal for autistic adults to talk to themselves occasionally. Many people on the autism spectrum like to review conversations to themselves for numerous reasons. This can include repeating lines from their favorite TV shows or movies, and this is known as "scripting".

Do autistic people think differently? ›

Non-autistic people tend to assess concepts before details, also known as top-down thinking. Autistic people take the opposite approach with bottom-up thinking and use details to build concepts. It may take longer to filter out sensory details with this approach, but you're less likely to miss important information.

Do autistic people have empathy? ›

Though autistic people may respond to emotions and social cues differently than neurotypical people, this does not mean they lack empathy. Just like neurotypical people, levels of empathy vary between autistic individuals.


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