Awareness for autism and its expansive effects

About 1 percent of the world’s population has Autism Spectrum Disorder. It is estimated to occur in one out of every 59 births. More than 3.5 million Americans are living with an ASD.

It is for these reasons, and many others, April is celebrated as Autism Awareness Month, and the call for a nationwide effort to promote autism awareness and assure that each person living with ASD is provided a life full of opportunities has been made.

Those who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. Autism doesn’t know socioeconomic boundaries, nor does it dictate the future of the one who has been diagnosed. Living in a higher class or being educated doesn’t protect anyone from being affected by the disability.

Take a look around — you are more than likely in the presence of someone who lives with autism. ASD is the most common developmental disability following intellectual disability.

For some strange reason, our society has a bad habit of grouping people together and assuming that they are all the same based on labels they have been given. I once heard someone say, “If you have met an autistic child, then you have met one.” That is so true. I don’t think many people realize how wide the autism spectrum spans.

Even the mildest forms of autism can have a huge impact on the daily life of the person who is diagnosed and their family. The following is a look into the typical life of those who fall on the autism spectrum, as told by four parents.

“In the morning, when he gets up, he has to be reminded of the things he must accomplish that morning to get ready for school. Simple tasks like brushing his teeth and putting on his clothes don’t come naturally. Despite being told the night before what the plans for tomorrow will be, he has to be gently reminded of these things each and every morning,” said one parent.

“For you, picking out your clothing options for the day seem easy, and typically don’t require too much in-depth thought,” said another. “For her, it’s a hard task that often causes frustration. Not just any shirt and shorts will work. The shirt must be short-sleeved, with no collar and no buttons. If there is a decal or imprint on the shirt, it must not be noticeable from the inside, where the shirt touches the body. The shirt and shorts can’t make any type of noise. So, raincoats and windbreakers won’t work. If it’s cold outside — not just any sweatshirt will do. It can’t be fuzzy on the inside.”

“When watching television, he would rather sit in a dark room, alone. The noise on the television can’t be too loud, because certain noises bother him and while they may not seem loud to you, his ears are very sensitive and it’s very loud to him,” yet another parent offered.

“She doesn’t understand non-verbal communication,” a fourth parent explained. “When someone gives her a thumbs-up to show their delight in a task she has completed, she doesn’t understand it’s a way of expressing pleasure without saying a word. And, despite having fairly good verbal communication skills, a teacher’s lecture and presentation of instructions only causes mass confusion and distress in her mind.”

Today, as we celebrate World Autism Awareness Day, let us embrace the opportunity to promote autism awareness, autism acceptance and draw attention to the tens of thousands facing an autism diagnosis each year.