The Kaleidoscope

Autism Awareness Month

Sarah Kanas, Staff Writer

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One of the common disabilities that is known in the United States is autism. Autism is a neurobehavioral condition that includes impairments in social interaction, developmental language and communication skills combined with repetitive behaviors. This disability is today is now known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). When it comes to many challenges in life, children, teens and adults with autism struggle to understand what others think and feel. They do not communicate well and have a hard time expressing themselves through words, gestures, facial expressions and tough. They also are troubled and pained easily with the challenges they face and have a great deal of sensitivity to light, sound and touch.

For example, a three year old boy is uncomfortable with other people looking at him when they want to talk to him. The boy puts his hands over his eyes to block out eye contact to show that is shy and doesn’t know them to well. When loud sirens from a fire truck are heard from a far away distance to a close distance, the boy covers his ears to block out the sound. As for touch, the boy does not like to be cuddled unless a person knows that he needs his space. However, the person who is trying to stop the boy from having a meltdown has to touch him in a way that is not aggressive. Instead, the person would gently put his/her hands on the boys lap and calmly ask the boy for eye contact without getting upset.

The repetitive behaviors concerning autism include rocking back and forth, pacing, hand-flapping and twirling. Children, teens and adults with autism respond differently to questions and requests when performing different tasks. Some of them resist change and show aggression such as screaming, crying and provoke harm to themselves and others around them are trying to correct their behaviors in hard situations (www.webmd.com).

The signs and symptoms of autism include difficulty with communication, social interactions, obsessive interests and compulsive behaviors. They also include signs that are behavioral, cognitive, psychological and other factors that occur later in life. The behavioral factors include poor eye contact, self-harm, and persistent repetition of words and actions. The cognitive factors include having intense interests and paying attention to only one thing and not listening. The psychological factors include no awareness of emotion and showing signs of depression. Other factors of autism include anxiety, change in voice and sensitivity to sound (www.mayoclinic.org).

There are three types of autism. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Asperger Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder ASD is characterized by persistent deficits in the ability to initiate and sustain reciprocal social interaction, communication and by a range of restricted, repetitive and inflexible patterns of behavior and interests. The defects of this disability are sufficiently severe that they can cause impairment in personal, family, social, education occupational and other important eras of functioning and are usually a pervasive feature of an individual’s functioning observable in all settings and may vary in other situations in life.

Asperger Syndrome is a form of autism characterized by normal or above average intelligence. It is also a disorder of uncertain nosological validity characterized by the same type of qualitative abnormalities of reciprocal social interaction that typify autism together with a restricted repetitive repertoire of interests and activities. Pervasive Developmental Disorder a form of autism known atypical autism or NOS (Not Otherwise Specified). This disability is also a type of pervasive developmental disorder that differs from childhood autism in age of onset or failing to fulfill all three sets of the diagnostic criteria (www.researchautism.net).

In population, there are more than 200,000 people diagnosed with autism per year in the United States. Babies at 0-2 years old and seniors 60 to the upper ages have the diagnosis which is very rare. There are also common ages affected with the disability. Toddlers at 3-5 years old and children at 6-13 years old are the common ages affected with autism as. Teens at 14-18 years old and young adults at 19-40 years old are also the common ages affected with the disability as well as adults at 41 to 60 years old. Males in the US are more likely to be diagnosed with autism than females (www.mayoclinic.org).

In 2009, Barack Obama our former president declared that there was to be a special day for all people on the autism spectrum. That special day is World Autism Awareness Day. That special day takes place on April 2nd and ends April 30th. During World Autism Awareness Day, international communities light their homes up blue for support and increase the acceptance and understanding of many people living on the spectrum. There are several continents and countries that changed their light bulbs to blue for World Autism Awareness Day. Those continents and countries are Egypt, South America, Spain, Asia, Brazil, Australia and North America. Prez. Obama also confirmed that April is the month to spread awareness to all people who have autism and show support and compassion to one another (www.autismspeaks.org).

I was diagnosed with high functioning autism at the age of ten after my first seizure back in the summer of 2004. Both my mother and my father made sure that I had the right medication for my seizures and soon discovered that I had autism. They learned the basics of autism and I soon learned how to do things differently. While I did follow my classmates on the same subjects in school, I had to learn how to read and do math differently.

For example, my friends in school are on the level of multiplication and division in math, but I am not. I still had a long way to go with addition and subtraction. Fourteen years later, I understood how to multiply although these days I’m more into music and work packets that will prepare me for real life.

Many times on YouTube, I hear children, teens, and adults with autism are bullied and harassed. The reason why is because bullies think people with autism are strange or cannot work for anyone in a job they applied for. They even go as far as to getting to the point of being abusive towards people with autism and using foul language to make them do what they want them to do such as sitting up straight in a seat on the bus or to stop crying immediately.

These situations however did not happen to me. I was lucky to have friends and teachers who gave support in school and looking up to me as a good student and a good friend. I was not bullied as much as other autistic children were, because I was kind to my friends despite the fact that I had trouble with my schoolwork and I had to tackle many obstacles that were overwhelming. I even got involved in a program involving special education before I entered college.

My family also supports me in hard times and now a days I’m searching for a job and meeting new challenges I have to overcome in college. As an adult with autism, I can understand that not all students with the disability go to college. Some of them choose to only work or get involved in other programs. There are even adults with autism who live in a group home and they take a bus to work, the store or the doctor. That’s something I’m wanting to do when I’m ready to move out the home I lived for twenty-four years.

The puzzle piece is the symbol of autism and is colored in the color blue. It also represents the program Autism Speaks. Just like the pink ribbon representing breast cancer, autism also has a ribbon for awareness and support, except for one thing. This ribbon is covered with the puzzle pieces with different colors. Those colors are light blue, dark blue, red, yellow and sometimes purple.

There are a few words that describe six letters in the word autism. The six words I know from a bookmark from the Autism Program of Illinois are always, unique, totally, intelligent, sometimes and mysterious.

To me, autism is a disability that other people on the spectrum including myself must live with for years to come. Some people live with it well and others wish they wouldn’t have to live with it because of the pressure they feel when dealing with daily challenges. I believe that God has given us uniqueness to inspire children and teens to see the world in their own way and to express themselves through their talents. Autism is NOT a disease nor is it contagious. Many doctors treat autism like an illness, because they believe there has to be a cure. Despite the factors of autism occurring at any time in any year in a person at any age, there is no cure for the disability.

Autism is a disability and will always be yesterday, tomorrow and today. This month is Autism Awareness Month where we come together to raise awareness and give support to children, teens and adults on the spectrum.

Today, let us come together for awareness, support and light it up blue for acceptance and understanding.

I may be a young lady with autism now and tomorrow, but I still have the ability to work hard and have a bright future. I’m glad to have the support of my friends and family who had helped me cope with autism through the years in my life and I am proud to be on the spectrum!

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Autism Awareness Month