Autism...What is it?
What do Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Sir Isaac Newton and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart all have in common? The same thing that Hans Christian Anderson, Anthony Hopkins, Steve Jobs, and Charles Darwin have in common. They all have been recognized as inspiring people that have Autism Spectrum Disorder.
"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."— Albert Einstein
Autism Spectrum Disorder, ASD, is often simply referred to as autism. It is a developmental disorder that effects 1 in 54 children in the United States. It makes it difficult for a person to communicate with others, interact in social environments, and causes a person to develop other behaviors, such as repetitive motions and speech impairments.
Diagnosing autism can be difficult, as there is not a blood test or other form of medical testing that can diagnosis the disorder. Doctors rely on screenings that measures behavioral outputs and developmental milestones. ASD is usually diagnosed in children when they are very young. Signs can start to present as early as six months old.
As children grow, development can be measured using milestones. Many children that are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder may miss one or more of these milestones at the following ages:
- 6 Months - Smiling
- 9 Months - Mimic sounds and/or make facial expressions
- 12 Months - Make baby cooing noises, baby babble or other baby sounds
- 14 Months - Gesturing, pointing, and/or waving
- 16 Months - Not talking and/or attempting to speak
- 18 Months - Play using imaginative methods
- 24 Months - Speak two-word phrases
Autism is a spectrum disorder. Spectrum refers to how things vary and differ between two points on a scale. This spectrum is what makes autism so unique and sometimes difficult to diagnose. Where some individuals may display mild signs of autistic behavior and are able to take care of themselves without any temporary or permanent assistance, other individuals may have a more severe form and need assistance when performing day to day tasks.
As well as different severities, it comes with a wide array of symptoms. Some may become extremely talented in one specific arena but lack other common developmental or social skills. Those that excel in a skill or talent are usually considered high functioning. Two perfect examples would be Tony DeBlois and Leslie Lemke. These gentlemen found that through their struggles with autism, they naturally thrived at making music.
"Autism is not a disability, it's a different ability."— Stuart Duncan
DeBlois was born weighing just one pound and started showing signs of autism before the age of two. Throughout his life, he learned to play over 20 musical instruments and has thousands of songs memorized, as he is blind and cannot read music. Lemke, similarly, was naturally talented at playing the piano. By his teenage years, he was able to play songs by ear from various genres.
There is not an exact cause for the disorder. However, it has been linked to genetics, chromosomal conditions, and children of older parents. There are treatments available, which include support groups, medications, and therapy.