On April 2, 2017 it was World Autism Awareness Day. An important annual moment to raise awareness on this developmental disorder and all its associated difficulties, and especially the opportunities out there for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Since the event’s inception in 2008, autism awareness and research around the world has increased as a result.
Most of us are familiar with the typical behavioral characteristics associated with autism: social behavior deficits and repetitive behaviors. However, motor abnormalities are also a part of the autism behavioral spectrum. These have generally been linked to malfunction of the cerebral cortex, but recent studies have also implicated the cerebellum.
Autistic phenotype in mice
Shank2 is a gene that encodes a postsynaptic protein and has been linked to autism spectrum disorders (ASD). In short, inactivation of this gene in mice creates “autistic mice” (Won et al. Nature 2012).
Nowadays we often come across signs or printed versions of funny, motivational, and inspirational quotes about our homes. You’ll probably confirm this for yourself: we’ve all seen a postcard, a doormat, or a picture in a magazine with sentences like: ‘Home is where the heart is’, ‘Home is where you can be yourself’ or ‘Home sweet home’. A funny one I like is ‘Home is where your Wi-Fi connects automatically’. We also read listings which convince us that ‘in this house we are real, we make mistakes, we say I’m sorry, we have fun, we forgive, we love’ and so on.
Last week I had a chat with a friend of mine whose eldest son (8 years old) was diagnosed several years ago with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). She told me about a conversation she and her husband had with a speech therapist, who explained to them that when someone asks their son a question or tells him something to do, it usually takes 7 seconds before his brain processed this information. Imagine that, 7 seconds – that’s quite a lot. In those 7 seconds many other words can be said or questions can be asked. But for this little boy it means that it is important to speak slowly and give one instruction at a time, or you will likely get little to no response, or only partial task completion.
Become and stay aware about children with autism
When there is a lack of understanding, you don’t realize that he needs this time to see the whole picture. When you have to deal with this over and over again, every single day, you can become very frustrated and annoyed by the child’s seeming failure to understand, or worse, lack of desire to listen.