Autism has become a household word because of the vast number of lives impacted by this highly scrutinized and often confusing series of conditions. In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that 1 in 59 children currently has autism spectrum disorder in the United States.
ASD can affect the entire body, but it is typically marked by repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities. Difficulties with communication, intellectual disabilities and impaired social interactions also are noted. The autism awareness organization Autism Speaks estimates that one-third of people with ASD are nonverbal as well.
Research implicates genetics as the cause of ASD in the vast majority of cases. Generally speaking, children born to older parents are at a higher risk for having autism than those born to younger parents. Despite controversy, there is no definitive link between ASD and immunizations.
Each April is Autism Awareness Month. April 2 was World Autism Day. The Autism Society, one of the leading autism organizations, established the observance month to “promote autism awareness, inclusion and self-determination for all, and to assure that each person with ASD is provided the opportunity to achieve the highest possible quality of life.” There are many steps people can take to help the group achieve that goal, both in April and throughout the year.
1. Wear blue. One of the significant markers of autism support and awareness is the displaying of the color blue. Many organizations sell blue t-shirts and other promotional items that help raise awareness and money for the cause.
2. Attend an event. There are many marches or fundraisers for ASD in April. Participating in such events shows those with ASD that people care about them.
3. Go to a sensory friendly event. Venues like movie theaters and amusement parks offer “sensory-friendly” days for individuals with ASD and their families.
4. Embrace the ribbon. The puzzle piece ribbon represents the complexity and diversity of those with ASD. Pin a ribbon to clothing or attach ribbon magnets to cars.
5. Learn more. Dr. Temple Grandin is an autism expert who is on the spectrum herself. Through her own words, Grandin shares unprecedented insights into what the autistic brain experiences. This education can be used in one’s own life or in the classroom. There are other educators with ASD who also offer their expertise online.
6. Donate when possible. Although there is no cure for autism, researchers continue to work to learn more about it and any potential treatments that can improve the lives of those with ASD.