Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD, is a highly complex and often misunderstood and misrepresented developmental disorder that impacts individuals in a variety of ways. This can include differences in communication, interpersonal interactions and learning. Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means that every person with autism is affected differently and faces unique challenges. Some common characteristics include repetitive behaviors, avoidance of direct eye contact, delayed language learning and poor motor skills. According to the CDC, autism occurs in approximately 1 out of 68 births and occurs in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups. The cause of autism is not yet understood, but research is ongoing to better understand possible causes and help create and develop new treatments to provide appropriate support to those who are on the spectrum, as well as provide resources to their families and loved ones.
Families of individuals on the autism spectrum invest a lot of time and resources to ensure that their family member receives the appropriate support suited for them. This can include behavioral therapy and/or educational support for children, and varying types of support into adulthood as needed on an individual basis.
Even if you don’t have someone in your life who is affected by autism, there are several ways to support individuals on the spectrum. Here are a few important ones:
Support Research Initiatives
Many companies do fundraising to support organizations that work with autistic individuals and their families. By shopping at stores you may already visit regularly, you can help families give their loved ones the best support available and fund research to further improve the resources available to affected individuals.
Take Time to Learn About Autism
Being aware of behaviors that are commonly associated with autism spectrum disorder can help promote patience and understanding when interacting with individuals on the spectrum. Learning about how autism impacts people differently will help you to enable and include those on the spectrum in ways that are appropriate and helpful.
Be Mindful of Language
Learning about appropriate terminology and correct language is an important way to support individuals with autism. Using incorrect language can be hurtful and can lead to negative emotions, which could have been easily avoided by using thoughtful language. If someone corrects you, accept and welcome the feedback, it is meant to promote inclusivity and acceptance, not call anyone out.
April is Autism Awareness Month, a month which is intended to “promote awareness, inclusion and self-determination for all.” During the month of April, organizations around the world who work to support individuals with autism, their families, and research to better understand autism help spread awareness, educate the public about autism, and raise money to support their work in the community.
Inclusion is an important aspect of the month, because many people who happen to be on the autism spectrum can be made to feel stigmatized by their diagnosis. Autism Awareness month strives to support initiatives which promote inclusivity for those on the spectrum. Events are commonly held that are designed to be safe, friendly spaces for people who may be sensitive to loud noises or bright lights that would not have negative impacts on neurotypical people. These events are meant to bring awareness to the ways that we as a society can be more inclusive in respect to autism spectrum disorder and create understanding on how to better support people on the spectrum. Celebrating people with autism is another way to promote inclusivity because many people on the spectrum bring new perspectives and solutions to issues in our world because of differences in how we see and experience the world around us.
Finally, self-determination for people on the spectrum is crucial in understanding Autism Awareness month. Because autism impacts each person differently, many people on the spectrum are able to live independently, or do so with some level of accommodations. This means that enabling people with autism by providing educational resources and later in life, employment training opportunities are important steps in ensuring that every individual is allowed to determine his or her path in life.