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Have you been touched by autism? I have a friend whose child has severe autism, limiting speech and functioning. She embraces her son and helps him with so many challenges and yet the struggle can be exhausting. I recently met an artist whose creative genius can be attributed to her autism. I once heard Temple Grandin speak in person about her amazing life with autism. Maybe you know someone with autism, or maybe you’d like to learn more about it. Maybe your child has a classmate with autism. In any case, we can all do more to learn how to accept and support individuals and families living with autism.

Logo_WAAD

The eleventh annual World Autism Awareness Day is April 2, 2018. Across the globe, countless landmarks, buildings, homes and communities will light up blue in recognition of people living with autism. Autism-friendly events and educational activities take place all month to increase understanding and acceptance and foster worldwide support.

What is autism spectrum disorder?

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a range of conditions demonstrated by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. Autism is also characterized by unique strengths and differences. There are many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences.

The term “spectrum” reflects the wide variation in challenges and strengths possessed by each person with autism. In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association merged four previously distinct diagnoses into one umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These included autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome.

Although the symptoms of autism widely vary, the most-obvious signs tend to appear between 2 and 3 years of age. Some developmental delays associated with autism can be identified and addressed even earlier. Parents with concerns are urged to seek evaluation early, as intervention can improve outcomes.

Autism Speaks shares these facts about autism:mother-2605132_960_720

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates autism’s prevalence as 1 in 68 children in the United States. This includes 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls.
  • An estimated 50,000 teens with autism become adults – and lose school-based autism services – each year.
  • Around one third of people with autism remain nonverbal.
  • Around one third of people with autism have an intellectual disability.
  • Certain medical and mental health issues frequently accompany autism. They include gastrointestinal disorders, seizures, sleep disturbances, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and phobias.

It’s likely that many school age children will interact with autistic children in their school. The National Autism Society provides age appropriate resource guides to help students not only understand autism but also learn to connect with autistic children.

Sesame Workshop launched a new online initiative called “See Amazing in All Children” to promote awareness and acceptance of children ages 2-5 with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The website features narrated videos that reflect a diverse group of ASD children, an electronic storybook that features Julia, a new Muppet character who is Autistic, and eight daily routine card sets. After utilizing website materials, parents of non-autistic children reported increased knowledge and acceptance of those with autism, and parents of children with ASD reported increases in confidence and hope in raising their ASD children. Sesame Workshop also has information to help adults know what to say to the parent of an autistic child.

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County.

Reviewed by: Amanda Bohlen, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Washington County.

Sources:

  • AutismSpeaks.org
  • National Autism Society
  • Sesame Workshop

Picture sources:

  • Autism Speaks
  • Pixabay

 

 

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