All About Autism And How It Affects You


It can be hard to separate the myths from the realities about autism, which has been described as an epidemic. | Source: Shutterstock

You’re probably hearing even more about autism lately than ever before, especially since it’s being called an epidemic. Yikes! So many people are talking about autism and how its rate is increasing–which is pretty scary if you don’t know anything about autism to begin with.

What is autism? Autism is a brain development disorder that was originally estimated to affect one in every 110 kids in the U.S. every year, but new reports suggest that the actual figures may be close to one in every 88. It’s unclear whether this is because more kids are being affected by the disorder or if there’s just been improvements in testing for autism, which would lead to more correct diagnoses.

autism Jenny McCarthy

Actress, model, and author Jenny McCarthy draws awareness to autism through her work, inspired by her son. | Source: Shutterstock

One common misconception about autism is that autistic children and adults are unintelligent. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as most autistic people have IQs of 85 or above–and many are extremely skilled in math, science, and music.

The increase in autism awareness may be due to celebs gaining attention to the cause. Jenny McCarthy is an outspoken advocate for autism awareness, and other stars ranging from Miami Dolphins legend Dan Marino to Rocky Balboa himself, Sylvester Stallone, have autistic children.

autism Edward Scissorhands

Many speculated that the character Edward Scissorhands exhibits signs of Asperger's syndrome! | Source: Shutterstock

As of now, no one knows what causes autism. (Many suspected vaccines to be the culprit for a while, but that’s since been pretty much ruled out.) For a while, autism diagnoses were only given to those with severe impediments, including speechlessness, repetitive behaviors and social impairments, but since then, the autism spectrum has expanded and includes less severe versions of the disorder, like Asperger’s syndrome. This may be another cause for the growth in autism diagnoses: the number of people who are autistic might have not necessarily changed, it may just be that more people are aware of it now. Sites like The Autism Site also make it easy to donate (for free!) to autism awareness.

Do you know anyone on the autism spectrum? Have you ever had to help care for an autistic person? Tell us about it in the comments!

Some say chemicals in food could cause Autism. What do you think?

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  • MC

    My father was never diagnosed with autism. When he was younger, there was no such thing as ‘autism’. Children who didn’t fit into obscurely-shaped pigeon holes were labelled as ‘troubled’, and ‘naughty’. He was definitely autistic.

    We found out about autism after my sister seemed to have a mental breakdown. She had always been quite… difficult. She seemed incapable of thinking about anyone but herself. She seemed to say things that anyone could guess would be hurtful. She always seemed surprised when people called her out on it — like she had no idea that it would upset someone else.

    She dropped out of school when she was eleven. She couldn’t take the social aspects of it. She was tired all of the time, cranky, snappy. The family doctor recommended home tutoring, as she seemed depressed. Eventually, the diagnosis was Asperger’s. Pretty quickly after that, my father realised that he most likely had Asperger’s, too.

    I recieved a diagnosis of A-Typical High Functioning Autism. I am equally as (seemingly) ignorant as my sister, but in the opposite ways. She can’t read expressions. If someone’s eyebrows twitch slightly, I will assume they are an extremity of an emotion — I over-read.

    Things have been turbulent and difficult, but being a teen is ALWAYS turbulent and difficult. Things have settled with time. Once school is done, life gets much easier — especially for those with autism.

    – MC, 21

  • Amelia

    I’m pretty sure I’m somewhere on the autism spectrum or I have aspergers. I’m finding it really difficult socially and I took some tests online and they all said that there was a very strong possibility I have aspergers. However I would like to be properly tested but I don’t know how to ask my parents if I can go to someone. I think it would be helpful to know as I’m finding everything really hard lately but my parents don’t know cause I try to look normal even though they’re really accepting and nice. I just feel like I’d be exposing too much. If I was tested and I did have something it might be helpful in terms of school and teachers being aware that I’m not okay and maybe being able to get some help. What should I do?

  • mandie

    guys i have autism yeah i may be different then you but you have no right to be judging or treating your friends classmates or family members differently just because we have weird quirks like not liking the blow dryer or vacuum or loud things like basketball buzzers doesn’t mean were any different than people that don’t have autism or Aspergers syndrome were just like everyone else i go to school hang out with friends and go to the mall i listen to music like most people in the world do. autism is a gift not a curse to me to some its the end of the world but i accepted myself for who i am and i have learned to live with the fact i have autism, it doesn’t change who you are living with autism at times yeah it gets hard, i hate going to the mall because i always get ran into and theres so many people it makes me overwhelmed for example imagine your in a class room where everyones talking you can hear the clock ticking, pencils tapping, books having pages turned, theres the kid in the back that wont stop smaking his gum and tapping his pen while doing an algebra assingment, the kid next to you keeps poking you in the side and has his music too loud oooh look theres a bird out the window, wait is that a squirrel says the kid behind you and you can hear the markers squeaking against the white board as the teacher writes a problem down theres two girls yelling at each other across the room and another kid throwing spitballs at the teacher you’ve lost your focus and cant get your math test finished you finally start one problem and the bell starts ringing to go to third period. Thats what its like for me and many autistic kids in class every little thing distracts you and its really hard to focus sometime i hope whoever reads this can understand autism a little better if you a family member or a classmate or even a close friend has autism you just have to learn to accept that some of the things they do are part of having autism like getting easily distracted in class or flapping your hands around just give autism a chance trust me thats a chance worth taking.

  • Michelle

    I know this may make me sound like a horrible person, but my brother has asperger’s syndrome, but I have no sympathy for him. In fact, I hate him. He is 3 years older than me, much bigger than me, and can get violent. Something will make him angry at school, and then he brings it home and tears the house up or beats on me, and my parents do nothing for punishment because he is like he is. Living with him is literally pure hell.

    • Raven

      Aspergr’s and autism are different, and one of the main differences is that Aspies are mean as fuck. I know two who are abusive. One of those to is kind and the other’s not. Because they’re an Aspie they never know they are abusive and will refuse to believe you if you tell them (even if they’re good people and don’t want to be). This makes the bad people, like the second guy I know, to be pretty heinous. If your brother is evil then it’s alright if you hate him.

      However, is he evil? Most autistics, of any form including Asperger’s, are not actually evil. Is there any way he can yell at you about what happened at school, “I fucking hate those bastards my stupid teacher said this ridiculous thing!!!,” and you say “That sucks, your teacher is an idiot,” and now he’s happier and doesn’t want to hurt anything else?

      …might not work, they’re kinda crazy. If he’s REALLY evil then it’s not worth doing. But, is he?

      • FE

        With all due respect, not all people with Aspergers Syndrome are mean. I’ve been diagnosed with Aspergers and although it’s a struggle for me, I work REALLY HARD to understand what others are feeling and never ever do something that upsets people. Lots of people have told me that I’m really nice, understanding, etc. It’s just that it doesn’t come naturally to me to understand what others are feeling, and I have to think about it more than others might. There’s a lot more to it than just “upsetting people because we don’t know better” or whatever.

        We’re not “crazy” because we have Aspergers. Just because you know a couple of people who have it, and are jerks, doesn’t mean we all are. That’s like saying that because you know a couple of people of a certain race who are a certain way, they all are.
        If these people you know are being abusive, and when you tell them they are they won’t stop, that’s not to do with their disorder, that’s because they’re just not nice people.

        Whatever, I’ve said my piece. But please, please don’t think we’re all the same. Most Apsies you wouldn’t even know had the disorder, you’d probably just think we’re a little socially awkward/nerdy/weird/whatever.

      • Amelia

        Everybody is different. I know four people with Aspergers and they’re all totally different. One you wouldn’t notice at all, the other is really sweet but socially awkward, the third is quiet but awesome and the other is mean sometimes but only cause people tease him for being smart and he reacts a little more strongly than others.
        I know that there are extreme cases and I really feel for you if it is difficult, I find it really hard to deal with people who are reacting so strongly. But please don’t assume that all Aspies are mean cause they’re not. I’m pretty sure I have Aspergers myself and I’m not mean, just socially awkward and very different.

  • chloe

    my cusin has asbergers spectrum.when i was younger i though she was annoying and kind of one told me she had asbergers.i felt really bad about thinking she was annoying or mean when i found out.also,i remember 1 specific time when i was visiting her in navata city (ca) and we were sitting in the back of the truck.we were just driving to the pool in my hotel (its real nature-ish there)and there are windows and stuff back there.i forget why but she started talking about how i get every thing cuz im younger and stuff.i thought that was really rude and now i wish i hadnt.also me and my mom were talking about how her parents arent doing anything to help.they are trying to but rather than help and are just using it as an excuse for any bad behavior.
    thanks for reading my story!

  • Munecita258

    I have Asperger’s, but apparently I turned out alot better than others my. According to my old physchologist I appear like a normal but a little more logical teen. I personally believe that autism is one of those things people know about, but don’t really know the facts. I personally am a little insulted that gurl mentioned Jenny McCarthy. In my opinion she’s not the smartest lady and from how she spoke in public about her son and how she claims she “cured him” of autism (medically and logically a contradiction). She thought that vaccines caused autism, which is extremely pathetic and the papers that proposed this have been proven false and didn’t evidence to back it up.

  • mizzashley89

    My brother is autistic. It’s day by day but it’s so hard for me and my parents to watch him grow through life knowing he’s not like anyone else.

  • S.

    I am on the spectrum (Aspergers), and I agree that people should definitely become more informed. People tend to find out about my diagnosis and shy away as though I am contagious or something – which is absolutely ridiculous. My advice to those reading this? If you ever meet someone on the spectrum, treat them like you would anyone else you might meet on a daily basis.

  • Nikki M

    I was born with autism spectrum disorder, I am now 22. People always thought it was my mum trying to get attention by pretending I was sick, I had autism and asperger’s signs but back then there was never Autism Spectrum Disorder, I got diagnosed with it when I was 18, from my childhood doctor, it is thanks to him that I don’t feel like so much of a freak with an undiagnosed illness.

  • Allison

    My brother is on the autism spectrum…more closer to aspergers than autism. I hate when people don’t understand why he acts the way he does. I try to explain but they just dont understand. I think more people need to be aware of autism because its a very common disorder.

  • fliss

    i recently got asked out by a guy i was at school with years ago out of nowhere. i turned him down because i hardly knew anything abt him and i wasn’t attracted to him at all.
    after we had the “lets be friends” talk he told me he was autistic. it came as a bit of a surprise but also answered a lot of questions.
    i think we will stay friends and i want to get to know him better again after so long, but i think i need to know a bit more about autism and how it affects people. he is so very different from how i remember when we were kids, but i think he really needs a ‘gal-pal’ like me who’s a bit more sensitive to this kind of thing!!

    can anyone help me from their own experience? xxx