facts autism cognition

Twenty years ago autism was a mysterious and relatively unknown disorder. It affected 1 in 5,000 children. Today, people have a much better understanding of autism. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 68 children, in the United States has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

With the increase in prevalence and awareness has come a significant expansion in the field of autism research. We now know there is a spectrum of disorders that have different causes and different manifestations.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that usually presents during early childhood. Autism refers to developmental disorders characterized by a range of symptoms and levels of disabilities. The symptoms and the severity can affect individuals differently.

Although considered a behavioral condition, people with autism can suffer seizures, digestive problems, and other health issues. These problems can worsen behaviors, but individuals with autism can improve with proper medical care and therapy such as music or art programs.

Individuals with autism enjoy social interaction with others. Their interactions may be unique or quirky, and they need for us to be compassionate and understanding in our relationships with them. But aren’t we all quirky and strive for compassion and understanding?  

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Just like neurotypical individuals, each person with autism displays different social skills and deficits that are unique to them. People with autism benefit significantly from peer socialization so listen to what they are saying and engage them in conversation.    

Many people with autism function very well in society. Mozart had autism. Charles Darwin and Lewis Carroll (author of Alice in Wonderland) also had autism. Popular celebrities Dan Aykroyd and Daryl Hannah have ASD too!

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People with autism can be very smart. Almost half of people with autism have above average intelligence, and most ASD patients have at least average IQs.

The long-term memory of autistic people seems particularly good, as many can retain very detailed knowledge about a particular subject or object for prolonged periods.

Many autistic people excel in math, music, and science. ASD seems to make a person an exceptionally strong visual and auditory learner. They can also have a unique perspective that often enlightens and surprises us. 

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bust illustration isaak newtonAutistic people can have great powers of concentration. If they are interested in a subject, they relish learning, retaining, and everything they can find out about it. Innovative teachers can help students with autism achieve more by drawing on current research and providing families with the necessary tools to work with their children at home.

Some autistic people possess genius-level IQs, exhibiting superhuman skills in the realm of mathematics, music, art, or memory.

Some famous autistic geniuses, in addition to Darwin and Mozart, include Thomas Jefferson and Isaac Newton. Many scientists believe that Albert Einstein suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism.

People with autism perform well in a variety of industries, including as technology, and are actively recruited to work in detail-oriented positions because they can remain focused and notice the tiniest of details. They are also good at repetitive tasks, and companies including Microsoft and HP hire individuals with autism for their ability to concentrate on a repetitive task and easily detect mistakes.

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Autism – Nine Facts You Didn’t Know About Autism and Cognition

There is a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about autism, but extensive research is being conducted on this rapidly growing developmental disorder. Autism affects cognition, but not always in ways you might think. Scientists are only now starting to gain insight into the autistic brain, what effects it has, and how to ameliorate or modify these effects.

Here are nine facts you probably didn’t know about autism:

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Early Intervention Improves Brain Function  

Cognitive skills in ASD-diagnosed children can improve using behavioral therapies. High-quality early intervention not only improves behaviors, but it also improves how the brain function. Early intervention therapies can change the brain’s biological factors that cause autism, and brain activity can be adjusted.

According to the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, a clinical trial showed improvements in IQ, language skills, and adaptive behavior.

Raising the level of public awareness has helped. Parents should seek medical advice immediately if they have any reason to suspect their infant or toddler could have ASD.

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Bead Therapy Can Help

Autistic specialists recommend various methods to help manage the symptoms exhibited by autistic individuals. These methods have been shown to lead to significantly improved outcomes and can be implemented in home therapy sessions.

For example, engaging in bead therapy at home can help. The autistic child can learn to gemstone beads by color, texture, type, size, material, and weight. This sensory activity will help them learn how to observe and manipulate objects according to their sensory characteristics.

Learning to prioritize tasks and concentrating on a labor-intensive project can help improve fine motor skills. Threading beads in a predetermined pattern requires focus, concentration, and patience. Those with autism have the ability to perceive patterns more quickly than neurotypical individuals.

Specifically, by being taught step-by-step the process of beading, the autistic individual learns how to better interact with others.

Include bead therapy as a part of your evidence-based intervention to help children improve in all aspects of development.

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Peer Training Improves Social Skills of ASD classmates

Studies show that when an autistic child’s peers are trained to interrelate with them, the ASD-affected child’s social skills improve. Schools can help by teaching grade schoolers how to befriend a child with developmental disabilities to promote social skills with those who have autism. This peer support and interaction provides measurable benefits to the child and future adult with autism.

ASD students demonstrated significant improvement in their social skills when a group of children were placed in a classroom with three students. They were then taught how to interact with those that had social difficulties without knowing the identity of the ASD students. Those with autism had more friends and a greater social network than other groups in the study.   

This approach benefits neurotypical children too since it trains them in, cooperation, tolerance, and social skills.

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Autism Symptoms Can Improve with Age

Like most people, individuals with developmental disabilities, such as autism, continue to grow and change over time. Although autism can be a lifelong disorder, high-quality early intervention can help some children with ASD make progress, so they no longer meet the diagnostic criteria for autism.

In 2007, the Science Daily reported symptoms of autism could improve with age. A report funded by National Institutes of Health reiterates these findings, stating those diagnosed with ASD at an early age are now functioning equally with their mainstream peers. These findings are significant and give hope to parents of autistic children who struggle with language, motor, or social skills.

Although the diagnosis of autism is not usually lost over time, the findings suggest that there is a very wide range of possible outcomes,” said NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel, M.D. For an individual child, the outcome may be knowable only with time and after some years of intervention. Subsequent reports from this study should tell us more about the nature of autism and the role of therapy and other factors in the long-term outcome for these children.”

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Autism and Associated Disorders Are More Common Than People Realize

The CDC estimates that 1 in 68 children in the United States has some form of autism. By gender, 1 in 42 boys, and 1 in 189 girls are diagnosed with the disorder.

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Medical professionals tend to diagnose boys with autism more frequently than they do girls. Researchers are unclear as to whether this means boys are more likely to have the disease or if expected girl behavior somehow masks the presence of ASD.

If you have a sibling with ASD, you are much more likely to suffer from autism. The age of the parents appears to affect your chances also. Mothers who have children at 35 or older, or men at age 40 or older who father children, have a greater likelihood of having a child with some form of ASD.

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Asperger’s Syndrome and Higher than Average IQs

Asperger’s Syndrome is considered a form of autism with symptoms that include the late onset of complex social skills, inability to react appropriately to peer interactions, and severe behavioral difficulties.

However, many people with Asperger’s have IQs superior to people who do not suffer from ASD, but they still face challenges. They struggle with abstract language and can’t read body language or process verbal and physical communication clues correctly.

The slow social and language processing rate of Asperger’s patients often results in social exclusion. With Asperger’s, you tend to have a more pronounced lack of social skills than people with other forms of autism. They do not laugh at jokes, make no eye contact at all, and can be aggressive—hitting others, including their caregivers. Specific triggers such as bright lights, certain colors, or too much sensory input, may cause extreme discomfort.

Researchers believe that Asperger’s patients, more than most ASD sufferers, have especially reactive emotional outbursts when something that to us may seem trivial or only subconsciously may affect us.

Celebrities diagnosed with this disorder include James Taylor and Susan Boyle.

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Pet Therapy Provides Comfort to Those with Autism

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Research involving children with autism who have a pet at home indicates the presence of the family pet tends to improve the child’s quality of life. Social behaviors in children with autism positively progress even after a short time playing with a live animal. The interaction reduces aggressive behavior, improves social skills, and serves as a link to the child’s community.

Children with autism appear to benefit most from interacting with dogs because a dog provides unconditional love and companionship. Dogs don’t need verbal cues to “read” the mood or state of mind of a human companion. Canines read and react to body language.

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People with Autism Have Some Surprisingly Admirable Traits

Autism affects the personality of a person in some surprisingly positive ways. People with autism are not usually very materialistic. Brand names, popular hairstyles or clothing, or other fads are unimportant to many ASD sufferers. Autistic people care much less about outward appearances and more about comfort.

Focused interests are common in people with autism. The topic varies widely depending on the individual, but they have extensive knowledge and discuss the topic often.

Individuals with autism are less deceptive because they are unable to maintain consistency between the initial lie and subsequent statements.

They are also less judgmental because they have a literal perception of the world. They perceive the world as it actually is rather than allowing their brain to shape how they see things.

People with autism are loyal employees. They are conscientious, committed, punctual, and honest.

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Recent Studies Suggest that Learning More than One Language at Home May Help Those with ASD.

In the past, medical professionals advised bilingual parents to speak only one language at home if they had an autistic child. Most believed autistic children would experience many developmental delays trying to learn and respond to more than one language and, hence, this would adversely affect their overall learning. However, no studies exist that verify this is true.

Today, some researchers have found that learning two or even three languages can significantly help children with developmental problems like those suffering from ASD. Learning another language forces a person to focus on a different skills set than he or she usually uses.

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An autistic child, when learning another language, must exercise more self-control and mental flexibility. During the learning process, the child will hone his or her social skills and cognitive abilities. Learning more than one language helps the ASD child to practice paying attention to body language and nonverbal communication.

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Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, no cure is available for autism. However, there are many options possible to improve the quality of life of those who have autism. Delayed language learning and reduced social interactions are relatively easy to manage with early interventions and by employing therapies like threading beads.

These therapies can help to mitigate the adverse effects of autism on behavior and general reasoning power, ultimately boosting cognition.