The Autistic Brain.
Steven Zauderer is the CEO of CrossRiverTherapy and has been in the healthcare industry for over ten years. CrossRiverTherapy's mission is to provide the highest quality of services to children and families who are impacted by autism. Zauderer's personal mission is to help underserved kids get the help they deserve; he believes no child should be denied high quality services. He wrote an article for CrossRiverTherapy's blog about the Autistic Brain and how it works. His blog post provides a great overlay of the general information surrounding the brain and its differences for people who have been diagnosed with autism. He also provided a video and pictures to illustrate the differences and highlight the areas in which the brain is affected due to autism. He begins his article by defining autism as "a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction, and behavior." About 1 in 54 children in the United States are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and the exact cause is still unknown. Thankfully, scientists have made significant progress in understanding the autistic brain and how it works. In fact, several studies have recognized that there are differences in the structure of the brains of people with and without ASD. Some areas of the brain may be larger or smaller or they may differ in the way that certain areas are connected. These differences in structure may contribute to the symptoms of autism, like social communication or repetitive behaviors. Some studies focused on the the differences in brain function and found that there is increased activity in areas, like the amygdala, that processes emotions. Other studies found that the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision-making and social behavior, has decreased activity in the autistic brain. Many people with autism also experience differences in the way they process sensory information. They could be hypersensitive to particular sounds, textures, smells, which could contribute to difficulties with social communication and behavior. Zauderer also touches on the causes of autism in saying that, "while the exact causes of autism are still unknown, research has shown that genetics play a significant role." In fact, studies have found that there are many genes that are associated with autism and they interact with environmental factors to increase the risk of developing the disorder. However, not all individuals with autism, have a genetic cause or mutations that developed the disorder. In terms of thinking and processing information, researchers have suggested that people with autism may process information and think differently than those who do not have autism. In fact, studies have found that people with autism have a more detail-oriented way of thinking and will focus on small details rather than the big picture. This type of thinking could be beneficial for tasks such as pattern recognition or data analysis, however, it could also lead to difficulties with social communication or understanding abstract concepts, like sarcasm or metaphors. Each person with autism is unique and may experience these differences in various ways, so it is important to make sure that individuals with autism are given the tools and resources that they need to thrive. In his article, Zauderer also discusses the areas of the brain that are "damaged" due to autism. The amygdala, for example, can be larger in those with autism than those without and the prefrontal cortex may have decreased activity. It is worth recognizing that there is no "one size fits all" description of the autistic brain, but there are some important differences between neurotypical individuals and those with autism. Individuals with autism are not wired to pick up on social cues, like facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language, which helps them understand what others are thinking or feeling; nuerotypical people are capable of discerning social cues, though. In terms of structural differences, people with autism typically have more gray matter in certain areas of the brain than nuerotypical people. Also, regions of the brain may communicate with other areas differently in people with autism than those without. These differences are neither good or bad, they just reflect the various ways that people with different abilities process information and experience the world. It is important that we understand these differences to create a more inclusive society that allows each and every person to receive the support they need to live fulfilling and happy lives, no matter what their nuerological makeup looks like. Next, Zauderer discusses the age at which the autistic brain fully develops. The development of the autistic person's brain is a complex process that varies for each individual, but research suggests that development continues through adolescence and into early adulthood. Other studies have recognized that autistic individuals may experience delays in areas of development, like language or social communication. With early intervention and support, though, these individuals can make significant progress in these specific areas with time. It is also important to recognize that each individual's brain develops at its own pace, autistic or not, so some people may reach development milestones quicker than their peers, or maybe "slower." In recent years, scientists have uncovered new information and come to better understand the autistic brain, however, there is still so much to learn. So far, we know that differences in brain structure and function as well as differences in sensory processing, that employ the symptoms of autism; genetics also play a role. The hope is that with more research, we can all gain a better understanding of autism and learn to better treat the individuals with a diagnosis. There should also be a push to provide easily accessible and digestible resources and support for those with autism as well as their family members, teachers, and caregivers, to ensure that these individuals are able to thrive and grow to live long and blissful lives.