April 1st marked the start of Autism Awareness Month. Today, April 2nd, marks World Autism Awareness Day (the 7th annual to be exact). I’ll have to admit, even though I have a degree in education, what I know about autism is enough to make me dangerous. Until the son of a very dear friend of mine was diagnosed. I’ve been working the last couple months to learn as much as possible and give whatever support I can for her, even though we live 4.5 hours apart. For those of you unfamiliar (or mildly dangerous with what information you do have), autism is:
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. Some people with ASD excel in visual skills, music, math and art.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify around 1 in 68 American children are on the ASD spectrum – a ten-fold increase in prevalence in 40 years. An estimated 1 out of 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls are diagnosed with autism in the United States. ASD affects over 2 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide (www.autism.speaks.org/what-autism, 2014).
A few weeks ago, as part of the work I do here on the blog, I received a review copy of Autism Breakthrough: The Groundbreaking Method That Has Helped Families All Over the World by Raun K. Kaufman, Director of Global Education for the Autism Treatment center of America. I’ve only just begun reading the book and will send it forward to my friend for her opinion, but just the way the author has shared his story and the support he received from those who loved him is phenomenal. Some of my favorite passages so far include:
- They didn’t try to change my behaviors. They sought first to understand me.
- My parents so respected me that they focused totally on what my experience was – not on whether I looked strange or different to other people.
- Not knowing what the future held, not requiring my reciprocation of their love, care, smiles, and cheers, they gave me every chance.
- People who do not know your child will see what your child does not do, and they will speak as if they know what your child cannot do. But you are the parent…nothing can change the fact that you aren’t in the way, you are the way.
I haven’t finished the book, but will definitely post a full review, including comments from my friend, when I’m finished reading it. To show my support for my friend’s family and the fact that her little boy has always been VERY special to me, I have changed my profile pic (on Facebook) for the month of April:
Here are a few links to find out more about ASD and autism:
- Autism Speaks: http://www.autismspeaks.org/
- Autism Society: http://www.autism-society.org/
- National Autism Association: http://nationalautismassociation.org/
- Autism Research Institute: http://www.autism.com/
encourage challenge you to spend some time this month to learn more about autism and ways in which you can help in your community. For example, on April 16th, $5 from every Texas Rangers ticket sold will be donated to Autism Speaks. I would love if you would share any personal experiences you have (that I can pass on to my friend) or something you’ve learned. We are in this together to make the world a better place, so what are you waiting for?