April is Autism Awareness Month. Although autism – also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder – is very common (about 1 in 68 children), it is sometimes misunderstood by those who don’t personally know someone affected. Here are some things everyone should know about ASD.
- It’s a “spectrum” because it ranges widely from moderate to severe. There is a great range of abilities and characteristics of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Symptoms can change over time, and they can vary from person to person.
- There is no cure for ASD. However, children who are ‘flagged’ by a caregiver early in life around two or three can significantly benefit from early interventions. Therapies like Applied Behavior Analysis can help children learn how to alter their behaviors in real or social situations.
- ASD is viewed differently than it once was. People now recognize the value of neurodiversity – the unique ways the human brain functions from person to person. The goal is to allow children to develop skills and strengths necessary for an independent life. Bill Gates, founder of IBM, and Albert Einstein, physicist are are on the Autism Spectrum. Autism can affect intellectual delays – or not. Again, everyone is entirely different and unique with their own set of gifts.
- ASD generally exhibits itself in two distinct ways: 1. ASD could present with social and interaction challenges that include difficulties holding conversations, lack of sharing interests and emotions, or trouble picking up on social cues. At times, children with ASD may have a hard time understanding relationships. 2. The repetition of behaviors, patterns, or activities could be prevalent. Those with ASD may exhibit speaking or speech patterns or require a predictable routine.
- Over the next decade, an estimated 707,000 to 1,116,000 teens (70,700 to 111,600 each year) will enter adulthood and age out of school-based autism services. We must understand autism and accept the many people affected by it. AutismSpeaks.org is a treasure trove of information for anyone – whether you know someone with autism or not.
For more information about living with autism, please read “Early Intervention and a Beaming Smile” about Jake Grant, a six-year-old boy living with autism.