1 in every 110 people in the USA has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The US Autism Society is calling for greater awareness and action this month to support people with autism throughout the country.

The Autism Society, in a communiqué issued today, says it will launch several awareness campaigns (Link).

National Autism Awareness Month started in the 1970s in an attempt to draw attention to the urgency for awareness and concern about autism. In this month, we should take the opportunity to educate people about autism and its issues. There is an ever-growing need for services and support.

Autism is a disorder of neural development, often described as a complex neurodevelopmental disability. Signs and symptoms generally appear during the first two years of a person’s life. It is characterized by impaired social interaction, communication, and restricted and repetitive behavior. Autism is a “spectrum disorder”, this means that each person is affected differently.

Experts say the brain of a person with autism processes information in a different way from other people, because of the way nerve cells and their synapses are connected and organized.

People with autism may have problems with:

  • Social skills
  • Empathy
  • Physical contact
  • Sharp sensations, such as lights, noises or smells
  • Speech
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Learning
  • Physical ticks and stimming
  • Obsessions

Just because individuals with autism might not express their feelings in the same way other people do, this does not mean that they do not have feelings – THEY DO! This myth must be destroyed. A person with autism feels sadness, happiness, pain, and love just like everyone else does.

Some types of autism include:

  • Autistic disorder – what the majority of people with no contact with people with autism think when they hear about autism.
  • Asperger’s syndrome – the individual has no language problem, has an average to above-average IQ, but has social problems, as well as some of the signs and symptoms mentioned above. Because they appear to function well, people with Asperger’s syndrome are frequently viewed as odd or eccentric, and can easily become victims of bullying or teasing.
  • PDD (pervasive developmental disorder) – a term used for children who have some autism symptoms but do not fit into any category.
  • Rett syndrome – affects females mainly. Signs and symptoms tend to start between the ages of 1 and 4 years.
  • Childhood disintegrative disorder – there is normal development during the first 24 months, then some social and communication skills are affected.

There is no cure for autism, however, early intervention can considerably improve the child’s development, especially during their first few years of life. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, says that more health professionals are being educated to identify the signs and symptoms early on, allowing children to get effective and prompt treatment when they are young.

The HHS set up a new national resource and information center which provides information on community-based services and interventions for individuals with ASD and their loved ones. The HHS says that money is being spent to deepen our understanding of ASD, test new therapies, study the genes linked to ASD, and examine the needs of an ever-growing number of adults with ASD.

Sebelius added that President Obama’s Affordable Care Act of 2010 will help ease the financial burden associated with treating and caring for a person with ASD.

Written by Christian Nordqvist