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What is autism spectrum disorder?


Photo by Jepser Sehested licensed CC BY 2.0

Today is World Autism Awareness Day — let's find out what it's about.

Autism spectrum disorder is something that some people are born with. It's something that affects how the brain works.

It's not a disease like diabetes or asthma. And it's not something you can catch like a cold.

It makes some people experience the world a little differently from others. It's just a different way of processing information.

We are all unique

group of diverse kids including children with autism looking up at a camera

Photo by hepingting licensed CC BY-SA

We all experience the world a little differently, including kids with autism.

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Some things that are easy for you may be harder for others. Kids with autism are just that: kids. They want friends and have hobbies, too.

No two people with autism are exactly alike, which is why it’s called a “spectrum.”

Kids with autism are just like everyone else!

Kids playing with animal toys on the floor

Kids with autism feel the same emotions, but may show them in different ways. They may rub or flap their hands, cover their ears, rock back and forth or make sounds.

Some may not like being touched or making eye contact. Some may be very sensitive to noises, bright lights or too many things happening at once.

Sometimes when things get too overwhelming, a little quiet time helps.

We all communicate differently

an adult holds up two pictures: one with a happy face and one with a sad face for a child to pick from

A kid points to a happy or sad face to communicate. (Katarzyna Białasiewicz/123RF Stock Photos)

Some people may communicate by pointing to pictures. Others use sign language or may use a computer to talk for them.

Just because someone can’t talk doesn’t mean they can’t communicate.

My friend has autism

Little girls playing in classroom
Olesia Bilkei/123RF

If you have a friend with autism that doesn't react the way you expect, be patient. It doesn’t mean they don’t want to be your friend. They may just need a break or to go somewhere more quiet.

And if you are a kid with autism, be kind to yourself. Remember to keep being yourself, be kind and appreciate each other for who they are.