What is Autism?

A pervasive developmental disorder, autism affects information processing in multiple ways. Many people with autism have difficulties with social interactions and communication, sensory deficits, and poor motor coordination. Autistic people often have restricted interests and engage in repetitive behaviors.

Because autism's symptoms vary greatly, it's said to exist on a spectrum, and is increasing referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder. (Asperger's is a condition often referred to as "high functioning" autism.) Some people with autism have low intelligence while others are quite intelligent.

Autism usually manifests by age two. It affects far more males than females. The frequency of diagnosis has surged over the past 20 years. No one knows for sure what causes autism, but numerous studies link it to advanced maternal and/or paternal age at conception.

Reports implicating mercury-containing vaccines have proved baseless, although there is some evidence that environmental toxins may play a role. Some research suggests that autism reflects an "extreme male brain," because people with the condition often have an obsession with details and systemizing but are low on empathizing ability. There is no cure for autism, although some symptoms may ameliorate over the years.

Recent Posts on Autism

The Beneficial Effects Of Animals On Children With Autism

By Hal Herzog Ph.D. on May 04, 2015 in Animals and Us
Temple Grandin told me that some (but not all) people with autism have a special way with animals. This new study examined the biological mechanisms behind the soothing effects Guinea pigs can have on children with autism spectrum disorders. .

Autism Spectrum Disorder: Do You Know the Facts?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts the lives of many families.

All My Stripes: A Story for Children with Autism

In an exclusive interview, authors Shaina Rudolph and Danielle Royer discuss their acclaimed book, "All My Stripes: A Story for Children with Autism." Not just any children's book, it includes a reading guide about the challenges and strengths of individuals on the autism spectrum, along with tips and support information for parents and caregivers.

The Cerebellum, Cerebral Cortex, and Autism Are Intertwined

Neuroscientists have identified a new marker for autism based on abnormal connectivity between specific regions of the cerebellum and the cerebral cortex.

April is Autism Awareness / Acceptance Month

People say April is Autism Month, which implies celebration. Yet autism is a disability, isn't it? So what do people celebrate this month, and why? Some thoughts from autistic author John Elder Robison

Being Misunderstood

By Lynne Soraya on March 30, 2015 in Asperger's Diary
Looking back at my life, if I were to identify a common theme, it is feeling misunderstood. It sounds so much like a cliché, that many roll their eyes when hearing the phrase. “Everyone feels misunderstood,” they say. But what’s interesting is that those in my life who have said that, have gradually come to realize that it is true.

How Does Practice Hardwire Long-Term Muscle Memory?

Why is it that once you've learned how to ride a bicycle or serve a tennis ball that you never forget the muscle memory involved in these actions? A team of neuroscientists recently pinpointed a new mechanism behind the consolidation of long-term motor memory.

Neurodiversity: What Does It Mean for 2015?

I write and speak a lot about what neurodiversity is, and what it means for society and for individuals and families. My thinking has evolved over the years in conversation with colleagues and friends in the advocacy, scientific, and higher education communities. Here's a new essay I've written to celebrate Autism Acceptance 2015

Shopping While Autistic

By Lynne Soraya on March 23, 2015 in Asperger's Diary
Have you ever seen a child having a breakdown in the middle of a grocery store? What’s your reaction to that child? Do you judge, or do you wonder what they’re experiencing? Well, I can give you an idea of what they might be going through.

If Selfish Genes Build Brains, Why Aren’t We All Solipsists?

Contrary to what you might think, the “selfish gene” paradigm does not imply that we should be self-centered to the point of believing that only we exist.

The Cerebellum Deeply Influences Our Thoughts and Emotions

Yesterday there was a report on NPR about groundbreaking new research on the cerebellum from Harvard Medical School. The latest neuroscience shows that the cerebellum plays an important role in creating fluidity between our thoughts, actions, emotions, and cognitive processes.

Why We Need People Who Care About Us

Empathy erosion occurs when people fail to attend to the humanity—the feelings, interests, kinship, etc—of others. Either they don’t cognitively understand others’ feelings or they aren’t emotionally affected by others’ feelings.

What My Son Has Taught Me About Autism and Parenting

By Stephen Borgman on March 10, 2015 in Spectrum Solutions
Here's a simple way to improve your parenting on the autism spectrum.

The Cerebellum Holds Many Clues for Creating Humanoid Robots

Recent discoveries show that the cerebellum (Latin for "little brain") holds vital clues for the future creation of sentient robots and androids that are featured in upcoming blockbuster movies like Chappie, Ex Machina, and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

How Youth Wind Up Taking Antipsychotic Medications

Yes, the number of kids taking antipsychotic medications is rising, but what does that mean? A new study begins to illuminate the process being the prescriptions.

Envisioning the Future for Your Child with Autism

By Chantal Sicile-Kira on February 25, 2015 in The Autism Advocate
When envisioning the future of your child as an adult – any child – it’s important to focus on the strengths that are apparent. And as the parent of a child with autism, it’s even more important. The strengths your child has will help him overcome his deficits, perhaps even become a way for your child to be employed as an adult, or be motivated to learn new skills.

The Sound Of Silence

By Lynne Soraya on February 21, 2015 in Asperger's Diary
I have recently come face-to-face with a fact about myself: I have a problem with silence. I’m not really sure why.

Asked and Answered

By Amy S.F. Lutz on February 20, 2015 in Inspectrum
Hundreds of individuals with developmental disabilities, families, providers and advocates came out yesterday to oppose New Jersey's plan to force all waiver recipients into integrated settings -- whether or not full community inclusion is safe, appropriate, or even desired -- with speakers calling the restrictions "violations of the ADA."

Mr. Putin, Would You Lie Still So We Can Scan Your Brain?

By Gregg Murray Ph.D. on February 15, 2015 in Caveman Politics
How do we predict dangerous leaders' actions when they won't answer our proven psychological questionnaires or lie still for our fMRI bran scans? Well, here are a couple of choices.

Your Child With Autism: Life as an Adult & Planning Ahead

By Chantal Sicile-Kira on February 09, 2015 in The Autism Advocate
Once your child starts is no longer eligible for school services under IDEA because he or she has graduated from high or aged out of school services (at age 22 in most states), there is nothing guaranteed for your adult child. Your adult child may be eligible for services, but that does not mean that he or she will receive services. Planning ahead is necessary.

The Diagnostic Swamp of Childhood Bipolar Disorder NOS

Just published in one of the world’s leading psychiatric journals is a study documenting the dramatic change in bipolar disorder NOS (not otherwise specified) diagnosed in children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years from 1999 to 2010.

Rigidity v Chaos: A Diametric Model of Brain Networks

A new schema of semantic networks in the hemispheres of the brain fits the diametric model perfectly.

Discover This One Secret That Will Change Your Life

By Stephen Borgman on January 31, 2015 in Spectrum Solutions
Millionaires commit and dedicate themselves to this simple habit. Why not you?

On Vaccines and Autism: An Open Letter to Larry Wilmore

By David Kyle Johnson Ph.D. on January 29, 2015 in A Logical Take
Larry Wilmore, the host of The Nightly Show, knows that vaccines are safe and effective. Unfortunately, he has no idea how to host a show that communicates that fact.

Synesthesia and Neurodiversity

By Maureen Seaberg on January 27, 2015 in Sensorium
The neurodiversity movement grew out of the autism community

Figuring Out Friendship

By Lynne Soraya on December 31, 2014 in Asperger's Diary
Over the past few months, I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship. What I understand about it, what I still don’t, and how the experience of friendship has always been different that it has been for others.

Autism Adult Transition: My Son Moves Into His Own Place

By Chantal Sicile-Kira on December 29, 2014 in The Autism Advocate
In September, Jeremy moved into his own place. For Jeremy who is autistic, who communicates by typing and has many sensori-motor challenges, moving meant more than just transferring to another living space.

5 Right Ways to Think About Living With Autism

By Stephen Borgman on December 28, 2014 in Spectrum Solutions
It's time to rethink autism advice by asking those who know: adults with autism/Aspergers. Here are 5 tips for living for autism: from those who know.

The Plague of Modern, Mechanized, Multi-cultural Life

Plagues, like mechanization, modernization, and multi-culturalism, isolate individuals in ways comparable to autism.

Navigating Grief and Loss as an Autistic Adult

By Lynne Soraya on December 24, 2014 in Asperger's Diary
It’s the holiday season...a time for reflection, togetherness, and joy, so they say. As I’ve written before, it hasn’t always been that way for me. This holiday season has been an especially difficult one. One of my best friends passed away over Thanksgiving weekend.