Frequently Asked Questions

Can autism be cured?

Technically, no. Autism cannot be cured because, in its essence, it is a developmental disorder in the brain’s structure. However, there are several therapies that can greatly benefit those with autism, including behavior, speech, cognitive, and occupational therapies. Counseling can also be helpful for autism-related issues such as sleeping problems and eating issues, mood disorders, and Sensory Processing Disorder. Certain types of medications like sertraline and other treatments like CBD oil can also help control some of these co-occurring issues, but no drug can “cure” autism.

Is everyone with autism the same?

Definitely not. That’s why it’s called a spectrum disorder!  As Dr. Stephen Shore famously said: “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” This is where the debate over the “high-functioning/low-functioning” labels comes in. Many people on the spectrum are offended by these labels because the disorder is just that — a spectrum. Even someone diagnosed with high-functioning autism (HFA) will find that their functioning abilities fluctuate up and down the spectrum depending on factors such as environment, stress levels, etc. Personally, I don’t have a problem with HFA because to me, it is another, more accurate way of describing what used to be Asperger syndrome.

What are special interests?

One of the main, defining features of someone with autism is that they have special interests: intense, focused interests that border on obsessions. For example, a neurotypical person might really enjoy bird-watching and partake in it when they have time. However, for someone with autism, bird-watching would consume all of their time, focus, and energy. Special interests can be life-long, or they can only last a couple of months or even a few days.

Are all people with autism good at math?

LOL, no. Ask anyone who knows me — I’m the WORST at math. This is just a stereotype perpetuated by the media. Most autistic characters on TV and in books are males who love math and science. And a lot do; don’t get me wrong. But just as many don’t. It comes down to the fact that those on the spectrum (particularly those with HFA) have special interests (see above) and extreme abilities in certain areas. These areas could be math, music, language, art, etc.

Do vaccines cause autism?

Nope. No way. Never did. Thanks to Dr. Andrew Wakefield, a former British gastroenterologist, who wrote a paper in 1998 in which he stated that MMR vaccines caused autism, people started freaking out and stopped vaccinating their kids. However, since then, Wakefield has been discredited over and over again, but people still can’t get it out of their heads. In 2013, a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), showed that “vaccines do not cause ASD. The study looked at the number of antigens (substances in vaccines that cause the body’s immune system to produce disease-fighting antibodies) from vaccines during the first two years of life. The results showed that the total amount of antigen from vaccines received was the same between children with ASD and those that did not have ASD.” While Wakefield seems to be right about there being a connection between gastrointestinal issues and autism, it has nothing to do with vaccines.

Update: On March 4, 2019, the results of a new study performed the MMR vaccination performed in Denmark were released. Here’s what they found: “The study strongly supports that MMR vaccination does not increase the risk for autism, does not trigger autism in susceptible children, and is not associated with clustering of autism cases after vaccination. It adds to previous studies through significant additional statistical power and by addressing hypotheses of susceptible subgroups and clustering of cases.”

Is autism more common in boys than girls?

According to several studies, ASD is more commonly diagnosed in males than females (about 1:4).  In the United States, only 1 in every 189 females is diagnosed, whereas 1 in every 42 males is diagnosed. However, it is debatable as to whether autism really is more common in males, or if females just do not display the “classic” symptoms and are therefore misdiagnosed.  Interestingly enough, though, Hans Asperger originally thought that girls could not even be affected by autism, but he eventually changed his mind.

What is “stimming”?

The term “stimming,” or self-stimulatory behavior, is a specific, repetitive behavior that all people do in order to self-regulate or self-sooth. This could include foot-tapping or nail-biting. However, people with autism often perform these stims much more frequently than a neurotypical person, and their stims are often much less socially acceptable. An autistic’s stims might be something like hand-flapping, spinning in a circle, or even repeating inappropriate words. This is why stimming is usually the most noticeable symptom that someone is autistic. Here’s a great article on stimming if you’d like more information.

Have a question that wasn’t answered here? Ask away!