Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What is Autism Awareness Month?

I know you’ve heard about it. Right? Autism? April? Of course you have. Beyond the obvious April and Autism connections what do you really know about Autism? Chances are if you don’t live with Autism or know someone who does than you probably don’t know what Autism really is. Statistics can show prevalence and create a sense of urgency about Autism and other causes, but statistics don’t describe what Autism is and how it impacts people. Knowing about celebrities who have a child with Autism, or who have a charity for Autism still does not answer the question what is Autism? So this year during Autism Awareness Month we decided to try a different approach to educate the world about some of the facets of Autism so they better understand us and our cause.

Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder of development lasting throughout a person's lifetime. Autism typically appears during the first three years of development impairing the normal social, communication and emotional functions of the brain. Individuals with Autism also experience physical symptoms including gastrointestinal disorders, allergies, sleep disorders, sensory integration disorders and more. Because individuals with autism exhibit different physical symptoms combined with neurological symptoms or behaviors, ranging from mild to severe, autism is a "spectrum" disorder, or a group of disorders with a range of similar features.

This means that on the Autism Spectrum you may have 20 individuals all with the same diagnosis, yet all 20 will have different physical and neurological symptoms, each requiring individually tailored interventions and treatment plans. The increasing prevalence of Autism combined with the lack of accessibility to qualified expertise for a growing number of children and families living on the spectrum have resulted in higher costs and waiting lists for vital assistance. The mounting shortage of services and supports is exacerbated by the lack of understanding about Autism by researchers and professionals.

A new case of Autism is diagnosed every 15 seconds worldwide, making Autism the fastest growing disability on the planet. Autism respects no natural boundaries, national borders or state lines, and it afflicts children regardless of race, religion, economics or geographical location. More children will be diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder this year than with pediatric cancers, AIDS and Diabetes combined. Still, Autism receives less than 5% of the funding of other many less prevalent and curable early childhood diseases.

Many of the Answers we want and need about autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) continue to elude science. Right now there is no medical detection, approved medications and there is no cure for Autism. Continued Research combined with the advancement of professional expertise are the keys to successes today. Access to qualified early intervention, healthcare, education and community services must keep pace with the growing needs of families living on the Autism Spectrum. Supporting community-based Autism programs and resources maximizes positive outcomes for your neighbors.

Autism Awareness Month is more than a Word, Month, Statistic or Blue Lights and TV Commercials…it’s about elevating awareness about what Autism is, and equally as important is educating people about what they can do to help make a difference. This tireless process and the search for answers began long ago and will continue to unfold one day at a time far beyond April of 2010. You may not see us…you may not hear us…but we are out there and we need your help. Don’t give up on us. Don’t forget about us when the blue lights go out or when you turn the page of the calendar.


  1. I'm doing everything I can now and beyond to continue to raise awareness...but to what are the "blue lights" referring? :) Thanks for all you are doing! Cheers!

  2. Thanks for asking! For all those who are inquiring about the blue lights...This is an initiative that is spearheaded by Autism Speaks to elevate awareness by lighting buildings blue. You can light your porch lights blue too and wear blue clothes on April 2nd among other events... Apologies to all for not clarifying before hand...and thanks for more proof that awareness can always do a better job!