Posted by: suekenney | April 2, 2013

World Autism Awareness Day 2013

Autism Awareness

Autism Awareness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What do you know about autism?  Do you know that it’s not just one condition, but a whole broad spectrum of conditions?  Do you know that the CDC estimates 1 out of every 88 children is on the autism spectrum (ASD)?  Do you know that when they divide it along gender lines, they estimate ASD affects 1 in every 54 boys, but only 1 in every 252 girls?   Do you know that this affects more children than are affected by diabetes, AIDS, cancer, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, or Down syndrome – combined?

Do you know that every person with autism is unique?  Do you know that many have exceptional visual, musical, and academic skills, while about 40% have intellectual disability (IQ less than 70)?  Do you know that about 25% of persons on the spectrum are nonverbal but can learn to communicate via other means?  Do you know that some individuals with autism justly take pride in their abilities and different perspective on the world, while others are significantly disabled and cannot live independently?

Do you know that there is no link between childhood vaccines and the increased prevalence of autism?  Do you know that an autistic child has as much right as any other child, thanks to the Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1990, to have access to a “free and appropriate” education funded by the government, whether in mainstream or special education classrooms?

Do you know that it is very important to receive as early a diagnosis as possible, so that steps can begin immediately to deal with potential problems?  Do you know that every child needs to be screened for developmental milestones from birth to at least 36 months?  Do you know that screening for autism should include hearing and lead exposure tests and an autism-specific screening tool such as the M-CHAT, and be administered by a multi-disciplinary team of doctors, and that genetic testing and screening for related medical issues may also be recommended?

 And there is so much more to know!  Probably all of us know at least one person who has autism.  I personally know three, that I am aware of.  All three show different symptoms.  One is a toddler and beginning to make great strides in his development.  One is a teenager, functioning as well as any other teenager.  One is in his early twenties, of exceptional intelligence and musical skill, and working on his masters degree.

English: Temple Grandin’s talk at TED 2010.

English: Temple Grandin’s talk at TED 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the main things to remember about people with autism is that most of them are able to function just fine, thank you – they just see the world very differently than the rest of us.  This can often be an advantage:  look at Temple Grandin, who holds a PhD and is a professor of animal science.  Because of her autistic perspective, she was able to conceive a number of revolutionary ways to improve the cattle industry in the US.

Look at Dawn Prince-Hughes, another holder of a PhD, hers in primate anthropology.  Her autistic perspective led her to work closely with gorillas, and has given her new insights into gorilla behavior.

Look at Satoshi Tajiri.  His Asperger’s Syndrome (one of the higher-functioning conditions on the spectrum) led him to an early childhood obsession with insects, and then to arcade games.  This led to his creation of the Pokemon universe.

Look at the names of some other people throughout history, who have attracted speculation that they might have had ASD:  Albert Einstein, Amedeus Mozart, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Thomas Jefferson, Michelangelo.

A diagnosis of autism is not a death sentence.  It doesn’t mean that the child or adult with autism is an imbecile, or a vegetable, or a second-class citizen.  I said earlier that early intervention is extremely important:  not because I think that autism is a disease that needs to be “cured,” but because communication is so key to all we do, and autistic folks have to learn how to communicate with us so-called “neurotypicals.”  (Seriously, have you ever found anyone who really was “typical”?  That’s like defining “normal.”)  They must learn to communicate with us; we must learn to communicate with them.  It must come from both sides to be full, honest communication.

(Note:  Most of the information contained in this post was taken from autismspeaks.org; autismmythbusters.com; and toptenz.net.  Wikipedia was also helpful.)

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Responses

  1. Thanks for this post, because I learned something that is really significant to me…It is SO COOL, that Satoshi Tajiri has Asperger’s, my son, who also has Asperger’s grew up absolutely adoring EVERYTHING Pokemon. Oh my gosh, you have no idea. Birds of a feather I guess. Thanks for making something come back into the most glorious of circles. I love it!!!! 🙂

    • Wow, am I slow about responding to this! I am so glad that I shared something that meant that much to you. Read your post about Ted and Pokemon, and was so encouraged. The more I look into this autism thing, the more hope I get: it’s not the disaster I might have thought at first. Love reading your posts.


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