April is Autism Awareness Month
April is National Autism Awareness Month. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex mental condition and developmental disability that is characterized by difficulties in the way a person communicates and interacts with other people. The first Autism Awareness Month was declared in 1970 by the Autism Society, an organization that provides information and education, supports research, and advocates for programs and services for the autism community.
The purpose of dedicating a month to autism awareness is not only to educate the public about the different aspects of the disorder, but also to start conversations about how we interact with and appreciate people who have been marginalized and ignored due to their diagnosis of ASD.
To honor the goal and mission of autism awareness, here are a few facts and statistics that will increase your knowledge of the condition and its characteristics:
- Autism impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction, communication skills, and cognitive function.
- Individuals with autism typically have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities.
- Prevalence in the United States is estimated at 1 in 68 births.
- More than 3.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder.
- Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability.
- Prevalence has increased by 6-15 percent each year from 2002 to 2010.
- Although diagnosing autism is possible by age 2, most children with autism do not get diagnosed until 4.5 to 5.5 years of age.
Autism and the people affected by it are more than just numbers and statistics. Each person has their own story and there is no one-size-fits-all approach for treatment. Since autism is a spectrum disorder, its characteristics and manifestations show themselves in varying degrees with different people. Each person experiences their condition differently and has unique needs. For example, one autistic person may have excellent self-care skills and above-average school performance, but need sensory integration therapy and social skills training. Another might be highly social but unable to care for herself and in need of counseling for depression.
As you would with anyone else, always presume competence and intelligence when interacting with a person who has autism. According to Autism Speaks, “Autism brings with it just as many exceptional abilities as limitations. Many people with autism have normal to high IQs and some may excel at math, music or another pursuit.” Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and positive expectations can help anyone bloom.
Making ourselves aware of the struggles, joys, and journeys of others leads to a kinder world and an understanding community. Michael Grey, an advocate for the autism community, put it this way: “I think, in general it’s important to remember everyone is different, and that’s as much true of people with autism as anyone else.” World Autism Awareness Month is a reminder to learn from others who experience life in different ways.