A general examination of ASD in current society.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is currently estimated to affect 1 in 59 children. Once diagnosed (usually in childhood), ASD is incurable and becomes a lifelong journey of management and coping strategies. With prevalence rates so high, it is likely that some students at UBC balance the challenges of ASD while studying, working, and living life. Although ASD is associated with social challenges and developmental delays, there are many positive aspects that shine in autistic individuals. Some of these may include an incredible attention to detail, specialized expertise in certain tasks, and a high level of honesty. According to one study, autistic brains are up to 40% faster at problem-solving. With many pros and cons, the question remains: what causes autism?

Vaccines do not cause autism. Let’s say that louder for the people in the back! Although Andrew Wakefield’s sleazy article argues that anti-vaccination is the antidote to autism, numerous follow-up studies have proved the contrary and Wakefield’s research has since been retracted (along with his medical licence). Flash forward to the current measles outbreak in Vancouver, news headlines read “Father at centre of measles outbreak didn't vaccinate children due to autism fears” and “BC's vaccination rate is too low to prevent diseases”. Evidently, the lasting effects of this debunked article have proved disastrous.

The cause of ASD is unknown. Research has shown that there is a genetic hereditability component that can be traced to certain genes mutations. However, there is a lot of mystery and unanswered questions that remain in the medical community regarding ASD. One interesting biological understanding of autism exists in the anatomy of neurons. Every brain is filled with trillions of synapses. Synapses can be thought of as connections that that allow signals to be passed along, and thus interpreted. Every time you feel pain, listen to music, and eat something yummy, neurons are firing and synapses are transmitting feelings and physiologically changes. According to this article, brains of autistic people have significantly more neuronal activation of excitatory synapses. This coincides with many symptoms such as being overwhelmed by sounds, lights, and having overall difficulty processing complex situations.

Autism is a composite and prevalent disorder. One fantastic resource for students with ASD on campus is the Disability Resource Centre which can help make exam situations more bearable. An option within the community is an organization called Canucks Autism Network which has numerous programs, volunteer, and job opportunities for not only those with autism, but also students seeking to advance their knowledge and skills involving Autism. As the Autism writer Stuart Duncan once said, “autism is not a disability it's a different ability” – and he is right.