Autism Awareness Month 2023 occurs during the month of April and aims to foster acceptance and kindness towards people on the autism spectrum. And just this year President Biden declared April 2, 2023, as World Autism Awareness Day. In his written proclamation, he called on all Americans to “learn more about autism to improve early diagnosis, to learn more about the experiences of autistic people from autistic people, and to build more welcoming and inclusive communities to support people with autism.”1
To follow his lead and help build more awareness, we’ve gathered the top 10 things you should know about this complex developmental condition. Explore everything from how common autism is to misconceptions about the condition and find ways to get help if someone you love has autism.
1. Autism Spectrum Disorder Affects 1 in 36 Children
According to the CDC, Autism Spectrum Disorder (or ASD) affects 1 in 36 children in the U.S.2 Though many children are diagnosed during the preschool years, autism can be reliably diagnosed around two years old, if not younger. It’s also possible not to get diagnosed until adolescence or adulthood.
2. ASD is More Common than Childhood Cancer, Diabetes, and AIDS Combined
Although autism is more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined, many children are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed and may not get the support they need.3 And despite its prevalence, there is still so much to learn about autism, including what causes the condition.
3. Boys are Around Four Times More Likely to be Diagnosed with ASD than Girls
Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls, even though a growing body of research suggests the condition is more common in girls than previously thought.4 Girls are missed because they tend to display their symptoms differently to boys and learn early how to internalize and mask their symptoms, which makes the condition harder to diagnose. This puts many girls at risk for inadequate treatment; without early intervention, many girls are not diagnosed until they are adults after having experienced significant social challenges and low self-esteem.
4. You are Born with ASD: It Cannot be Caused by Outside Factors
Autism is not an illness or disease that should be cured. It is a condition in which a person’s brain works differently from others, causing them to behave, communicate, interact, and learn in ways that are not considered “the norm.” Though some people are not diagnosed until later in life, autism is something a person is born with. Though researchers are still trying to figure out what causes autism, there are a number of potential risk factors, including:
- Having a sibling with autism
- Having genetic or chromosomal conditions, such as fragile X syndrome or tuberous sclerosis
- Experiencing complications at birth
- Being born to older parents
No harmful side effects.
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5. ASD is Not a Disorder that Gets Worse with Age
Autism is not a condition that worsens with age, but some symptoms may become more apparent or problematic as a person grows older and faces more challenging situations. Symptoms may also seem to worsen during difficult life events like the loss of a loved one, illness, failed relationships, and more.
6. Children & Teens with Autism Often have Lower Bone Density than Their Peers
Children and teens with autism often have a lower bone density and higher risk of fracture than their peers5. Researchers believe this is caused by a general lack of exercise, a reluctance to eat a varied diet, lack of certain vitamins and minerals like vitamin D, digestive problems, and diets that exclude casein, a protein found in milk products.6
7. Around 10% of People with ASD also Have Another Genetic, Neurological, or Metabolic Disorder
Autism may co-occur with other genetic, neurologic, or metabolic conditions, such as:7
- Sleep disorders
- Fragile X syndrome
- Down syndrome
- Duchenne muscular dystrophy
- Neurofibromatosis type I
- Tuberous sclerosis complex
- Metabolic and mitochondrial dysfunction
- Endocrine disorders
- Immune dysfunction
- GI disorders
- Food allergies and intolerances
8. Just Because a Child is Nonverbal at Age 4 Doesn’t Mean They Will Never Speak
In a study of more than 500 children with autism that was published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers found that many nonverbal autistic children overcome severe language delays. This corrects a widespread misconception that nonverbal children won’t acquire speech after age four.8 Researchers also stressed the importance of early intervention in promoting language skills.9
9. Each Person with ASD is a Unique Individual!
Autism is called a spectrum disorder because no two autistic people are the same. While one child may be non-verbal, another might be verbal but not able to read body language or pick up on social cues. Some people with autism need more support than others, and their needs can change over time as they encounter new environments and situations. It’s empowering to acknowledge that each autistic person has their own quirks, unique personality traits, and special skills. To celebrate this diversity, autism awareness colors often include the whole rainbow.
10. Early Identification & Support Matters to Get the Proper Treatment
Studies show that early interventions for autism are more likely to have significant long-term positive effects on symptoms and later skills. Programs vary according to each child’s needs, but may include speech therapy, physical therapy, nutrition services, and family training. There are also a number of ways to find support if you’re a teenager or adult with autism. This may include forms of therapy like CBT or occupational therapy, support groups, classes, and social skills training.
Supplements and Homeopathic Remedies to Control Symptoms
There is no approved medication to treat autism, though many doctors prescribe certain medications to reduce symptoms which are also associated with other conditions like ADHD or anxiety. Though pharmaceuticals like SSRIs or stimulants may be helpful for some, these medications often come with a number of side effects like drowsiness, upset stomach, appetite suppression, and headaches, which make gentler remedies worth trying first.
One place you can start is in addressing potential nutritional deficiencies with supplements. Research proves autistic kids can have suboptimal levels of omega-3s, vitamin B12, vitamin D, vitamin E, and calcium.10 Though these deficiencies can be addressed through food choices, many children with autism are highly selective in their diet and may have certain preferences that leave these essential nutrients out. Closing these gaps in their diet will support their focus, digestion, and overall mood.
An alternate remedy that is clinically proven to help control these symptoms is Brillia, a non-prescription homeopathic medication, which contains targeted antibodies to the brain-specific S100B protein. Brillia helps to reduce symptoms which commonly affect people with autism, such as restlessness, irritability, and anxiety without causing any harmful side effects or affecting any other systems in the body.
Children and adults with autism can use Brillia to help with mood regulation, aggression, and concurrent diagnoses of ADHD and anxiety. Parents of children with autism say Brillia helps their child have fewer meltdowns and less aggressive reactions, while adults report having less anxiety.