We all hear about it and we all likely know someone or a family affected by it. However, how many of us actually know what Autism is? What causes it? What can we do as parents/family/friends to help individuals and families affected by the disorder?
These are questions I asked myself upon learning a member of my now immediate family had an autism diagnosis. Luckily, there are many resources and communities built around Autism that are ready and willing to help here in the Dayton area and beyond.
What is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability; signs typically appear during early childhood and affect a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. ASD is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum condition” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. Some of the behaviors associated with autism include delayed learning of language; difficulty making eye contact or holding a conversation; difficulty with executive functioning, which relates to reasoning and planning; narrow, intense interests; poor motor skills’ and sensory sensitivities. (As defined by the Autism Society)
Autism affects 1 out of 68 births here in the United States each year and there are roughly 3.5 Million Americans with an Autism diagnosis. Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disorder in our country due to the fact that more people are aware of the disorder and children are getting diagnosed earlier and earlier each year compared to years prior. The earlier a child is diagnosed with ASD the better because therapies and different interventions can be put in place to help them thrive throughout childhood into adulthood.
The exact cause of ASD to largely unknown, but it is speculated that is caused by brain abnormalities that take place during fetal development. It is also believed to be a genetic disorder because more times than not ASD is seen throughout families. However, due to the varying severity of the disorder, it is possible for people to go throughout life without a diagnosis and are simply overlooked by parents and medical professionals.
How can you learn more or get involved when it comes to ASD?
While there are resources available in varying forms a big way many organizations get the word out about ASD is through Autism Awareness Month which runs from April 1st through April 31st, with World Autism Awareness Day falling on April 2nd. Through multiple agencies and communities, Autism is put to the forefront during this time period and out into the world in varying forms. Many local Autism Societies host events like 5K Walks, Parties, and Fundraisers during this time to raise awareness and funds for research. There are also large businesses we all know and love that support Autism Awareness.
One business, in particular, has a tasty way that they support Autism. Each April, select Panera Bread locations bake and sell puzzle piece shortbread cookies for their Pieces of Hope for Autism campaign. 100% of the proceeds go to support a local autism affiliate. This year in the Dayton area all proceeds raised will be going to the Dayton Children’s Autism Diagnostic Center. Cookies will be available April 9th – 15th and can be pre-ordered for easy pickup. Click HERE to schedule your pre-order pickup and support an amazing cause!
With so many people already living with ASD and more children being born with Autism each year, it’s bound to affect each and every one of us in some way or another. However, you can make a huge difference in a person or a family’s lives by educating yourself and your family. Knowledge is power when it comes to ASD, and the more informed people are the better this world can be for those affected by ASD and those who care for them in all capacities, big and small.