Family Voices Celebrates Autism Awareness Month
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Since the 1970s, April has been known as Autism Awareness Month in the United States as well as other parts of the world. The Autism Society (www.autism-society.org) says this commemoration highlights the growing need for concern and awareness about autism. As April begins, Family Voices would like to acknowledge and honor all of the people who are working to create greater awareness of the needs of children and youth living with autism, and their special families and caregivers.
The latest CDC study says that as many as one in fifty children currently live with some form of autism. (See http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr065.pdf . This is an increase of nearly 70% since the last major CDC study, five years before.
Given the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder, it is increasingly important for our society to understand this condition, and how to respect, support and integrate children, youth, and adults who live with autism into our schools, communities, workplaces, and lives.
Autism Speaks explains autism this way on their web site:
"Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group 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 persons with ASD excel in visual skills, music, math and art."
After the Newtown, Connecticut shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December of 2012, there was some fear that autism would be associated with violence, because it was speculated that the shooter may have been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, one form of autism. At that time, the Autism Society said:
"There is absolutely no evidence or any reliable research that suggests a linkage between autism and planned violence. To imply or suggest that some linkage exists is wrong and is harmful to more than 1.5 million law abiding, non-violent, and wonderful individuals who live with autism each day."
Clearly, this situation was horrific, and the possibility that autism would be stigmatized in this way frightening. However, four months later, the country, to its credit, seems to have worked through this potential misunderstanding of autism, and the resulting discussion nationally has been helpful and important. Lynn Pedraza, Family Voices Executive Director commented:
"Everyone in our society needs to understand the challenges faced by children and youth, as well as adults, who live with autism. And we also need to appreciate what is special about people who live with autism. I love the description ‘Always Unique, Totally Interesting, Sometimes Mysterious.' This April Family Voices honors the family leaders and organizations, like Autism Speaks and The Autism Society, that bring awareness and understanding of autism to our society, and advocate on behalf of individuals, and particularly children and youth, who live with autism."