The entire month of April is Autism Awareness Month and April 2 is recognized as World Autism Awareness Day. Established in 1972, advocacy groups such as the Autism Society began by founding National Autistic Children’s week, with it eventually evolving into what we recognize today. The theme for 2021 National Autism Awareness Month is “Light Up With Kindness.”
The goal of Autism Awareness Month is to spread awareness about autism, share stories, provide resources and encourage acceptance. There are various ways to show your support and get involved including political advocacy, volunteering with children on the autism spectrum, and sharing your personal stories with the world.
What Is Autism?
Autism is also known as “autism spectrum disorder,” or ASD. The condition often affects how children learn, think, socialize and manage their senses. In many cases, people on the spectrum can have increased sensitivities to sensory stimuli, sleep disorders, GI issues, seizures and mental health challenges such as anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and depression.
Currently, it’s estimated that autism impacts one out of every 54 children in the U.S. Autism doesn’t affect socioeconomic or ethnic groups differently, but it has been shown that males are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than females.
In general, most children are diagnosed after age four but there is an effort by pediatricians to begin diagnosing the condition earlier so treatments can begin sooner. The autism spectrum is wide, and the condition presents itself in many ways. The most common diagnoses include Asperger’s, Rhett’s Disorder and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. Each condition presents different challenges and impacts individuals in a unique way and also lends special strengths for certain individuals.
Signs of Autism
Early signs that a child may have autism tend to arise when they are two or three years old but, in some cases, can be as early as 18 months. This is important because early detection for autism is highly correlated with better outcomes later in life.
Signs can include:
- At 6 months, few signs of smiling or any other kind of expression that shows social engagement. A child also tends to have almost no eye contact with other people.
- At 9 months, there is a lack of making sounds in the direction of other people and facial expressions are limited.
- At 12 months, autistic children will not babble very much or at all; won’t make any kind of gestures common with socialization like waving or pointing, and show a significant lack of response when their name is called.
- At 16 months, they will have next to no words mastered.
- At 24 months, autistic children will have a limited number of two-word phrases, or perhaps not at all.
- Other signs that can occur at any age include losing skills that they’ve had previously, avoiding eye contact, being slow to learn language, ignoring other people’s feelings due to a lack of understanding, having trouble adapting to any kind of change in surroundings and only having one or two interests.
Resources for More Information
There is ample information available to learn more about autism and how to get involved to show your support:
Getting Help as a Provider
If you’re a provider who treats patients with an autism spectrum disorder, there are services available specifically targeted to help to aid you in what you do. At Therapy Brands, we provide purpose-built solutions specifically for Applied Behavior Analysis practitioners including billing management, documentation support, compliance tracking and more. Contact us today to learn more.