Autism Awareness Month: Limited Awareness and Representation

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Autism Spectrum Disorder affects about 1 in 68 children regardless of race, wealth, or inhabited country. Currently, there is no known cause as to why children may have ASD, though some forms of ASD are genetic. However, there are now many studies and ways to help children with autism. April is Autism Awareness Month, with Autism Awareness Day on April 2.

According to the CDC, ASD diagnoses have been about 1 in 68 eight-year-old children since 2010, whereas before, in 2008 they were about 1 in 88, in 2006 they were about 1 in 110, and in 2002 and 2000 they were about 1 in 150. The rise in ASD diagnoses occurred because of more research and awareness of ASD as well as a broadened description of ASD.

Signs and symptoms of ASD vary. If a child has ASD, they may lack social skills, communication skills, and/or obsessive and repetitive behavior. They may have trouble communicating with people about their feelings or understanding other’s feelings and personal space. Many don’t like minor changes in daily routines or physical contact. These signs and symptoms can be visible at as young as a few months old to two years old. It can also be connected to many other disorders, such as depression, high energy disorders, or inability to focus.

There are no medications available to treat ASD, but there are medications for disorders linked to ASD, like depression, high energy disorders, or inability to focus. Early intervention programs are highly recommended by the CDC, but other treatments include Applied Behavior Analysis, “Floortime,” occupational therapy, sensory integration therapy, speech therapy, or even dietary approaches. All of these treatments are mostly done during early childhood.

The portrayal of people with ASD in film, television, and literature isn’t incredibly diverse or an accurate depiction of all people on the autism spectrum. Most are portrayed as nerdy, awkward, and unloveable, which can feel isolating to some autistic people.

“A lot of the portrayals on television have given an unhelpfully narrow look at what autism is, and it’s impact on a family,” Tom Purser, an employee for the National  Autistic Society in Britain, said in an article from the New York Times about a new show in Britain called The A Word, which shed a new light on autism in TV. “The experience can be quite isolating, and that’s why it’s important to see it properly portrayed on TV.”

Books also have many characters with ASD, such as “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time” by Mark Haddon, “Mockingbird” by Kathryn Erskine, “Al Capone Does My Shirts” by Gennifer Choldenko and its sequels, “Al Capone Shines My Shoes” and “Al Capone Does My Homework.” Their portrayals have a similar range to film and television: limited.

“All of our brains differ from one another, but individuals with autism are especially unique.” Ms. Minter, an AP and IB Psychology teacher, said. “Autism has nothing to do with their intelligence, in fact, many people with autism exhibit higher IQ’s than others. They are able to do certain tasks easier, so it’s important that we can see how we can channel their uniqueness in a way that benefits the individual and society.”

ASD is a disorder that doctors still don’t know much about. If you would like to learn more, visit autismspeaks.org.