What Does it Mean if Someone is Autistic?

Every person experiences their health condition or disease in a very specific way, and certain conditions have a lot more range than others. Since April is Autism Awareness Month, let’s learn the basics of what autism is, how it can be experienced, and how it is managed and treated.

What is Autism?

Autism is a brain disorder characterized by difficulty with verbal and nonverbal communication, social interactions and repetitive behavior. There is a disconnection between different areas of the brain, resulting in some of the symptoms described in the next section. Autism is also referred to autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which speaks to the large range of unique strengths and impairments. Autism could mean you fall into the third of nonverbal autistic people, the third of autistic people with an intellectual disability or anywhere on the very large range of ways this disorder can be experienced. While there can be severe impairments, this is often present along with normal abilities. It is also possible that an autistic person may possess superior or savant abilities.

Autism Symptoms

Autism typically becomes apparent early, before age three.  Immediate or early detection and diagnosis can make a big difference in ensuring proper treatment and training for the individual to achieve maximum autonomy. An autistic person will likely always have a degree of difficulty relating to others

Different symptoms could be more specific to childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Behavioral therapy and medication will address different needs at different stages, as recommended by doctors and specialists.

Autism can exhibit symptoms that include the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Troubled sleep
  • Bladder & bowel issues
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Difficulty with balance, movement and walking
  • ADHD
  • Seizures
  • Repetitive movement (body rocking, hand flapping)
  • Ritualistic behavior or resistance to change in norms or routine
  • Compulsive behavior like checking locks or washing hands

Autism Treatment & Management

While there is no cure for autism, the goal is early diagnosis so that proper, tailored treatment strategies can be implemented. Ideally, this begins in childhood so that and is modified according to development and aging. Behavioral therapy is an important part of helping people with autism to practice self-help, social skills and communication, among other aspects. Depending on individual needs, speech, occupational and physical therapy are other specific therapies that could provide help with more specialized areas.

Medication is often a part of autism treatment, and the type and dosage is dependent on the individual’s symptoms, needs, and the doctor’s recommendations. Antidepressants, stimulants, and antipsychotics are among the most commonly prescribed autism medication. Effective medication and behavioral therapy work together for the goal of best quality of life and the greatest degree of independence possible. Salt: Balance the Healthy & Harmful Effects

Like many foods and ingredients, salt in and of itself is not bad for you. Not only does your body require an appropriate amount of salt to function; salt is, of course, also used to preserve meat, for cleaning, and adding flavor to food, among many other benefits. Your daily requirement of sodium is used to maintain proper muscle function and for sending nerve signals. Unless you have or are at risk of developing certain health conditions, you should be able to follow the “everything in moderation” rule. However, if you are confused about the healthy or harmful aspects of salt in your diet, let’s go over the basics.

How Much Salt Do We Need?

The recommends a maximum of 2,300 mg of salt per day, and that the average adult should actually aim for 1,500 mg per day. Just to translate: 2,300 mg is 1 teaspoon, and 1,500 mg is 3/4 teaspoon of salt. You need about 500 mg of sodium per day for proper function (which is less than 1/4 teaspoon). Getting the minimum or average daily intake of salt is not likely something you need to worry about; a balanced diet will cover that. Also, most North Americans are consuming more than the daily recommended intake of sodium.

If you live or work in a hot environment and lose more sweat, it’s alright to have a different average from someone who may not be expelling as much sweat. If you are an athlete or regularly do high intensity exercise, you will also need more than the 1,500 mg/daily salt intake because you are losing salt through your sweat. This is why healthy sports drinks are designed to replenish the body with salt and other electrolytes lost during heavy exertion.

Regularly eating an excessive amount of sodium can strain your kidneys and lead to other problems. Most notably, a high sodium diet is often a sign of a high fat diet, which can contribute to high cholesterol, obesity and heart failure.

Who Needs to Limit Salt?

Now that it’s clear that salt is a part of body function and nutritional needs, let’s clarify who needs to pay more attention to salt consumption. If you have high blood pressure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, or are obese, you will want to follow a doctor-prescribed low sodium diet. Besides more serious health conditions like the ones just mentioned, you may also want to limit sodium if you suffer from chronic bloating or IBS, since the water retention caused by excess salt could be at play.

To be on the safe side, if you are diabetic, have high blood pressure, are over 50 years old, or are African American (all factors that are associated with excess-salt-related health issues), ask your doctor what your personal sodium intake should be.

How to Consume Less Salt

Most of the salt you consume in everyday meals is not from your salt shaker. The majority of salt intake comes from packaged food. The quick tips on how to lower your salt intake is to avoid red meat, packaged /processed food, and fast food. Also, learn to read ingredients and know what sauces or condiments may have unexpectedly high levels of salt (and likely sugar). Herbs and spices can be used to bring a rich and low-sodium flavour to your meals.

Of course, another way to ensure a healthy diet is to shift your focus to , rather than what to avoid. Fresh produce and meats will have less sodium because the food won’t be packed in salt and preservatives to last. Vegetables should make up half of your plate or portion for meals because not only is it a high source of nutrients, it is also low calorie and low sodium. To round out a vegetable-heavy diet, look for recipes that incorporate whole grains, fish and nuts, lean meat and poultry, and low-fat dairy. Don’t forget that potassium (bananas, potatoes, white beans) is a nutritional way to counteract excessive sodium.

We hope this has helped clarify your understanding of salt consumption, and provide you with a gauge of how much is good for you. If you want to be sure, do ask your doctor to give you a professional opinion based on your specific health condition and what would be a safe amount of salt to have in your diet.

Close Menu