The eighth annual World Autism Awareness Day was April 2, 2016. Every year, autism organizations around the world celebrate the day with unique fundraising and awareness-raising events.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with autism look that sets them apart from other people, but people with autism may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with autism can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with autism need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less.
People with autism often have problems with social, emotional, and communication skills. They might repeat certain behaviors and might not want change in their daily activities. Many people with autism also have different ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to things. Signs of autism begin during early childhood and typically last throughout a person’s life. “Autism awareness is a key factor in helping our students become the best they can be at any level of performance. Over the years of my service to students with autism, they never cease to surprise me at their ability to learn and grow when given the opportunity and taught in a way that makes sense to them. I feel like the best part of autism awareness is giving parents, teachers, and children hope that achievement and success are obtainable and not just an unreachable dream,” says Amy Chapman, Behavior Specialist at New Albany Elementary School.
Diagnosing autism spectrum disorder can be difficult since there is no medical test, like a blood test, to diagnose the disorders. Doctors look at the child’s behavior and development to make a diagnosis. Autism can sometimes be detected at 18 months or younger. By age 2, a diagnosis by an experienced professional can be considered very reliable. However, many children do not receive a final diagnosis until much older. This delay means that children with autism might not get the early help they need. According to Dawn Stroupe, a 5th grade teacher at NAES who has an autistic child, “Obtaining a diagnosis of autism can be extremely difficult. However, as a parent, if you feel that something is different about your child, please continue to ask questions and search until you get answers. Early intervention is so important in the treatment of autism. Having a child with autism is not the end of the world; it is merely the beginning of a new amazing world.”
About 1 in 68 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder according to estimates from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. Autism is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. Autism is about 4.5 times more common among boys (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189).
Spreading autism awareness in schools is a great way to celebrate April and promote inclusion and acceptance in the classroom and beyond. New Albany Elementary teachers and staff are promoting autism awareness throughout the month of April by wearing blue on Fridays. “This year we even have special puzzle piece blue shirts to celebrate our wonderful students and families who know firsthand the struggles that autism brings. The puzzle piece signifies the complexity of autism and stands for… ‘Until all the pieces fit together and we understand everything about autism.’ Our school is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of our students and their families,” added Tammie Reeder, Health Services Coordinator, New Albany Schools.