Raising awareness for autism

April is National Autism Awareness Month - National Autism Awareness day was April 2nd. Articles were published this week to help raise awareness for autism spectrum disorders.
HuffPost Parents highlighted that one in every 68 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, and parents of autistic children described what autism is (and is not) based on their unique experiences. An article by Ellen Seidman conveyed how autism parents feel about studies on the causes of and advances in treating autism.
Reading articles about autism got me thinking about how we as a society can help people with autism and their families (assuming they want it), and what our focus should be. I want to hear thoughts on this topic!

  • Determining the cause - this is important because it could ultimately help with future prevention and appropriate treatment for those who have autism. Some of the studies regarding the cause of autism seem to beg the question: why do we allow industrial chemicals and environmental pollutants around us and our children, period?
  • Raising awareness - autism should not just be something we familiarize ourselves with when a friend or family member is identified with it. And, we should not use it as a basis for stereotyping people. Perhaps we should remind ourselves regularly (and our children, starting when they are toddlers), that everyone is unique and that it is important to be polite, patient and empathetic - this really is just Manners 101, right?
  • Providing affordable therapies, treatments and adequate support - a dear friend of mine has an adult sibling with asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. On a number of occasions she has mentioned starting a home for adults with asperger syndrome to help ensure they receive that care and support on a daily basis. There are currently no appropriate government funded programs available (what?!?).

Bringing autism spectrum disorders to the forefront of discussions is important, even if it is difficult to talk about. Families should be commended for sharing their experiences. Let's not hide these conversations and take action to help in any way we can!