By: Victoria R.
One in sixty-eight U.S. children are diagnosed with autism, or are somewhere on the spectrum, still it is one of the least represented and most misunderstood disorders in the U.S.
About two-million people are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the United States alone. Studies show that about 1 in 42 male and 1 in 189 female children in the U.S. are somewhere on the autistic spectrum. Together, 1 in 68 children in the United States are diagnosed with an autism disorder. This includes Asperger Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (also known as atypical autism). There are (on average) about 752 students in the average U.S. high school. This means, on average, in every high school in the U.S. probability shows that about 11 of those students would be diagnosed with a type of autism. Still, the amount of autism awareness in the United States is lacking. There have been multiple cases of even school teachers not knowing anything about certain types of autism. Take, for an example; this mother’s recollection of a conversation she had with her autistic child’s school teacher from her online blog.
“The first thing my sons’ new teacher told me was that she didn’t know anything about Asperger’s, but she would Google it when she got home.” Susan Moffitt says.
So, the real question is; with Autism Spectrum Disorder being so common, why aren’t people more informed about it? Some signs show that the media could be part of the issue. As it is with many developmental and/or psychological disorders, autistic representation is often lacking in television programs, movies, and even literature, and when it is included the disorder is often misinterpreted. There are many untrue stereotypes of the autistic spectrum such as the idea that autism is a strictly male disorder. While it is true that autism is significantly more common in males, the disorder as well as others on the spectrum affect females just the same. Other common (and often inaccurate) stereotypes include the ideas that ‘all people with autism enjoy math’, ‘all people with autism hate socializing and can be unfriendly’, and even the idea that ‘all autistic people lack empathy’.
While a few of these stereotypes can sometimes be true with certain people, it is also important to note that all people are different. While people may share the same disorder, it does not necessarily mean that they share the same personality, traits, ambitions, and interests. A correct definition of Autism Spectrum Disorder is ‘a developmental disorder that causes struggles with communication and social interaction’. In continuation, according to the Mayo Clinic website, symptoms of this disorder can include repetitive movements, impulsivity, speech problems, sensitivity to sound, and an interest in a small number of things. However, these symptoms can affect everyone differently, and in no way paint an autistic person to be an unkind or unfriendly person. Just the same, this does not mean that all autistic people enjoy math. While an autistic person could have an intense interest in STEM subjects and not much of an interest in anything else, an autistic person could have the same type of interest in things such as life science, literature, culinary arts, etc. The only correct way to categorize a person with autism would be to say they develop and react to social situations differently than the average person, and that is not a negative thing.
With more knowledge of these facts, and disregard of stereotypes, the media could include more accurate Autistic representation, and help people to be more informed of this and other disorders of its like. Together, we can create a more educated and supportive world for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.