April 2, 2019

World Autism Awareness Day

World Autism Awareness Day

April 2nd is internationally recognised as the World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD). The theme for this year’s WAAD is “Assistive Technologies, Active Participation”. During this month, autism-friendly events and educational activities will be held to educate the public on the challenges that autistic individuals (and the people around them) face every day. 

What is autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of complex neurodevelopmental disorders characterised by a deficit in social behaviours and communication.The common signs of ASD include reduced eye contact, facial expression and body gestures, overly focused on certain objects, engagement in repetitive movements or unusual behaviours (for example arms flapping or rocking from side to side), and awkward speech delivery. Genetic studies have proven that ASD is caused by defects or mutations in genes that control brain development and it is more common in children born prematurely. 

Myths and facts: What you need to know about autism

We have put together a list of myths related to autism to help clear any misconception about the disorder.

Myth #1: Autism is rare in Malaysia

Fact: The prevalence of autism is on the rise in Malaysia. Ministry of Health reported that one out of 625 children in Malaysia has autism. 

Myth #2: All people with autism require constant care

Fact: ASD is a ‘spectrum condition’, therefore it affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. On one extreme, there are ‘high functioning’ individuals who are able to care for themselves, hold jobs and build friendships. On the other extreme, ‘low functioning’ individuals need constant 24/7 monitoring and require help in their daily lives. Healthcare professionals have agreed that treatment for ASD should be individualised depending on the individual’s autism spectrum.

Myth #3: People with autism don’t want friends

Fact: Socialising or making new friends could take a great deal of time and effort for autistic individuals. Although they may appear shy or unfriendly, that is only because of their limited social skills, making it difficult for them to communicate in the same way that normal people do. Developing friendship with peers or work colleagues is a healthy way to prevent autistic individuals from getting bullied or to avoid miscommunication.  

Myth #4: Autism only affects children

Fact: The symptoms of ASD are present from early childhood (as early as 3 years old). Children with autism transition into adults with autism.

Myth #5: Autism is just a brain disorder 

Fact: Some genetic disorders are associated with autism such as Fragile X syndrome (which causes intellectual disability) and tuberous sclerosis (benign tumours in the brain or other vital organs). Furthermore, autistics individuals also have co-occurring conditions such as epilepsy or seizure, gastrointestinal disorders,food sensitivities,allergiesand disturbed sleep.

Famous people with autism

Every autistic individual is unique. For every down side of autism, there are certain positive traits that are worth to be celebrated. These positive traits include having a terrific memory, and a highly focused, passionate, non-judgemental and less materialistic personality. With these attributes, many individuals with ASD have achieved great success in their respective fields. Here is a list of famous and inspiring autistic people in history:

  • Albert Einstein- Scientist and mathematician
  • Emily Dickinson- Poet 
  • Bill Gates- Co-founder of the Microsoft Corporation 
  • Steve Jobs- Former CEO of Apple
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart- Classical composer
  • Sir Isaac Newton- Mathematician, astronomer and physicist
  • Jerry Seinfeld- Comedian 
  • Susan Boyle- Singer (from Britain’s Got Talent fame)
Wear light blue and show your support for WAAD!

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References

  1. Autism Speaks. World Autism Awareness Day. Available at https://www.autismspeaks.org/world-autism-awareness-day. Accessed on 28 March 2019.
  2. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Autism spectrum disorder fact sheet. Available at https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Autism-Spectrum-Disorder-Fact-Sheet. Accessed on 28 March 2019.
  3. Park HR, Lee JM, Moon HE, et al. A short review on the current understanding of autism spectrum disorders. Exp Neurobiol. 2016;25(1):1–13.
  4. IDEAS Autism Centre. Available at http://autism.ideas.org.my/. Accessed on 28 March 2019.
  5. Lim JM. Living with autism in Malaysia. Available at http://ideas.org.my/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/living-with-autism.pdf. Accessed on 28 March 2019.
  6. Autism Society of America. What is autism? Available at http://www.autism-society.org/what-is/. Accessed on 28 March 2019. 
  7. Autism Speaks. 11 myths about autism. Available at https://www.autismspeaks.org/blog/11-myths-about-autism. Accessed on 28 March 2019.
  8. Autism Society of America. Social/relationships. Available at http://www.autism-society.org/living-with-autism/autism-through-the-lifespan/adulthood/socialrelationships/. Accessed on 28 March 2019. 
  9. Applied Behaviour Analysis Program Guide. History’s 30 most inspiring people on the autism spectrum. Available at https://www.appliedbehavioranalysisprograms.com/historys-30-most-inspiring-people-on-the-autism-spectrum/. Accessed on 28 March 2019.
  10. National Autistic Society. Autism. Available at https://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is/asd.aspx. Accessed on 3 April 2019.
  11. Autism Support Network. Top 10 terrific traits of autistic people. Available at http://www.autismsupportnetwork.com/news/top-10-terrific-traits-autistic-people-92003432. Accessed on 3 April 2019.
  12. HelpGuide. Autism spectrum disorders. Available at https://www.helpguide.org/articles/autism-learning-disabilities/autism-spectrum-disorders.htm?pdf=12926. Accessed on 3 April 2019.
  13. Autism Awareness Australia. Yours severely. Available at https://www.autismawareness.com.au/news-events/aupdate/yours-severely/. Accessed on 4 April 2019.
  14. Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. The wide-angled lens of autism. Available at https://www1.racgp.org.au/newsgp/gp-opinion/the-wide-angled-lens-of-autism. Accessed on 4 April 2019.
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