What is Autism?
- “Autism.” Odds are, you’ve probably heard the word before, but what exactly does it mean?
- Autism, which is formally called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a term that typically refers to a wide range of neurological disorders, which means they affect the brain.
- When children are born, their brains begin a natural “pruning” process. During pruning, the brain eliminates extra connections and neurons that it doesn’t need. Research shows that children with autism are more likely to have a slower pruning process, which means adolescents and children with ASD tend to have more brain connections and neurons than many of their peers. So how does this extra connectivity affect them? One researcher found that it took children with autism about 8 – 9 seconds longer to readjust and turn down their brain activity after an experiment ended, compared to children without autism. This experience kind of feels like always being a few moments behind, or walking into a conversation about 10 seconds too late to understand the joke everyone is laughing about. This can be a common feeling for teens with autism, and it often makes social interactions a challenge. Doctors and scientists are still studying the brain and looking for more information about autism, but this field can be challenging because our brains are all so complex!
- You’re bound to meet someone on the spectrum eventually, if you haven’t already! Making friends can be difficult for all teenagers, on and off the spectrum, so if you meet someone who has autism, just try to be kind and understanding like you would with anyone else. People with autism may view the world in different ways than you do, which means you could learn a lot from each other! Let’s start by learning more about autism below.