Autism Awareness

Autism Awareness

Aidan Comfort, Staff Writer

When you or your friends see someone doing something mindless or foolish, do you ever think to call them autistic? A lot of people connect autism with being dumb, but that is a common misconception. When you really look into it, autism is an intricate and varied disability, consisting of a wide range of symptoms. Unintelligence isn’t one of them.

Before going into the causes, what is autism? According to the Oxford Languages dictionary, autism is “a developmental disorder of variable severity that is characterized by difficulty in social interaction and communication and by restricted or repetitive patterns of thought and behavior.” Now, what causes autism? According to Autism Speaks, “We know that there’s no one cause of autism. Research suggests that autism develops from a combination of genetic and nongenetic, or environmental, influences.” Common causes include premature births, older parents, low birth weight, twins/triplets, and pregnancies within a year of each other. However, these causes are not all-encompassing and other variables may be linked to them.

When considering symptoms, no one case shows itself the same. However, the general symptoms are typically universal, consisting of abnormal body and facial expressions and tone of voice, avoidance or poor eye contact, and behavioral disturbances. Language comprehension difficulties, speech difficulties, monotone speech, and intense focus are other noble signs. Additionally, lack of empathy, learning difficulty, word or phrase repetition, movement repetition, self-harming behaviors, and sleep problems are common symptoms.

Though there is a stigma surrounding autism that it makes people stupid or dumb, it doesn’t. In fact, it may actually boost intelligence. My brother, for example, was at a college-level reading comprehension when he was nine years old. He also has a photographic memory, a common characteristic found in those with disabilities. “Some people on the spectrum can recall memories from further back.” The Connection Between Autism & Intelligence states. Additionally, memory in people on the spectrum can closely resemble photographic or near photographic levels. Though they may not recollect a name or face, some individuals on the spectrum could surprise you with the small details they can recall.” Though he faces other challenges such as behavioral problems or avoiding social situations, his intelligence is not sullied by autism.

Even Albert Einstein is thought to have been on the autism spectrum. “As a child, he experienced severe speech delays and later echolalia, or the habit of repeating sentences to himself. And of course, there is the fact that Einstein was incredibly technical. Such characteristics have led many experts to conclude that he appeared somewhere on the autism spectrum,” Applied Behavior Analysis states in its article History’s 30 Most Inspiring People on the Autism Spectrum. Was Einstein an idiot? No, he was one of the smartest men to ever live.

Autism is a complex neurological disability, and is never a substitute for the words “stupid” or “dumb.” Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein were living-proof that autism does not confine the limits of your intelligence. To help, you can raise awareness for the stigma surrounding autism and terminate the wrongful usage of it. 

So next time you think to use autistic as a substitute for stupid or dumb, think again because some of the smartest people I know have autism. And Einstein wasn’t the only genius there, there was also Bill Gates, Steve Jobs,  and even Thomas Jefferson. So next time you think of using autism as a substitute, think before you do it.