National Autism Awareness Month

According to the Autism Society website, “More than 3.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder.” More startling than this is the fact that the “prevalence of autism in U.S. children increased by 119.4 percent from 2000 (1 in 150) to 2010 (1 in 68).” Thus, Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability in children. While statistics like these open the public’s eyes to this disability, many still do not know much about this disorder. This said, it is vital that everyone understand the symptoms, along with the prevention, of Autism. Join the Autism Society as they spend the month of April dedicated to raising awareness of this growing disability.

What exactly is Autism? “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability; signs typically appear during early childhood and affect a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others,” according to the society’s website. The disease is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum condition” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no one single cause of Autism, but increased awareness and early diagnosis/intervention, as well as access to appropriate services/support, can result in significantly improved outcomes.

What are the behaviors associated with Autism? The behaviors of this disorder range widely, as there is a broad spectrum on which individuals can range. “Some of the behaviors associated with autism include delayed learning of language; difficulty making eye contact or holding a conversation; difficulty with executive functioning, which relates to reasoning and planning; narrow, intense interests; poor motor skills and sensory sensitivities.” A person “on the spectrum” might exhibit just a few of these behaviors, or they may harbor many.

How is Autism diagnosed? The diagnosis of the autism spectrum disorder is based on analysis of all behaviors and their severity. According to the Autism Society website, there are a few different methods used to diagnose this disorder. First off, there is a medical diagnosis. This is when a team of medical professionals makes a diagnosis based on an assessment of symptoms and diagnostic tests. However, a diagnosis ought not to be based on one specific assessment. A person’s developmental history needs to aid the doctor’s diagnosis. Secondly, there must be an educational determination. This is made by a team of educational professionals to help “determine whether a student qualifies for special education and related services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).”

Asperger’s Syndrome: In what is coined as “high-functioning autism,” individuals who suffer from Asperger’s Syndrome often experience similar symptoms. “What distinguishes Asperger’s Disorder from classic autism are its less severe symptoms and the absence of language delays,” the website reveals. “Children with Asperger’s Disorder may be only mildly affected, and they frequently have good language and cognitive skills.” To an untrained observer, a child with Asperger’s Disorder may just seem like a normal child behaving differently. This child may seem “aloof,” or uninterested, in others. Diagnosis is similar to that of Autism.

Living with Autism: The Autism Society has a number of excellent services catering to those suffering from Autism. From a “self-advocacy” page, to help individuals dealing with Autism, to a “resource material page,” for caretakers. There are also resources for the family members of those suffering from this disorder.

Join the Autism Society and Autism Speaks! This upcoming April, the Autism Society will host a variety of events aimed at educating the public on the various elements of this disorder. From several online events and activities to local ones through affiliates, this month is packed with opportunities to raise awareness. Also, on April 2nd, 2017, Autism Speaks recognizes this day to be “World Autism Day.” Join Autism supporters around the world spotlight Autism awareness!