Autism Awareness Month
“The world needs different kinds of minds to work together.” ~Temple Grandin
Each year in April, we recognize the impact that autism has on the lives of countless people across the world. Over the past several decades, there has been growing awareness and knowledge of this complex condition, but there is still much to be done in order to increase acceptance and bring access to necessary treatment for the many individuals affected by autism.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that first arises in childhood, and symptoms include things such as impairment in social interaction, communication, and restrictive and repetitive behaviors. It’s thought to exist on a spectrum, with individuals displaying symptoms that can range from mild to severe and that vary in how greatly they impact the individual’s ability to function in society.
The CDC estimates that around 38% of individuals with autism also have an intellectual disability, while others with autism may have average or even above average intelligence. There is also a lot of variability in the verbal ability of individuals with autism. For example, some individuals have very limited verbal communication while others are verbally fluent (meaning they can speak in complete and complex sentences). One of the things that can make autism challenging to treat is just how uniquely it may present in each individual. As the saying goes, “If you’ve met one individual with autism, you’ve met one individual with autism!” (Stephen M. Shore)
Currently, the CDC estimates that a staggering 1 in 68 children meet criteria for an autism spectrum disorder. As a mental health professional who works with children on the autism spectrum, I frequently hear, “Why has the number of kids diagnosed with autism increased so much?” While the cause of this rise is still being debated, worldwide studies are beginning to point towards the idea that a broadening of our diagnostic criteria as well as greater worldwide awareness are responsible. In the meantime, as many parents can attest, the number of children being diagnosed with autism is far exceeding available medical and mental health services, even in areas with otherwise good availability to care for other conditions. And this is exactly why autism awareness month is meaningful and important to so many: the hope is that by raising public awareness of autism, we as a society will more fully realize the great need for continued research and the expanding of quality services for the growing number of individuals whose lives are impacted by autism. April is a month for reflecting not only on how far we’ve come but also on just how far we still have to go.
If you’re interested in finding out more about autism as well as the latest research and treatments, check out this great website: https://iancommunity.org.
Interactive Autism Network. “About Autism Spectrum Disorder.”
Sifferlin, Alexandra. 2015, Jan 5. “This May Explain the Rise in Autism Diagnoses.”
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute & Center for Autism Research. “Intellectual Disability and ASD.”