Did you know that April is Autism Awareness Month?
As Autism Awareness Month is taking place, we wanted to use this as an opportunity to be open about the reality of developmental delays in young children and the importance of autism awareness. With the diagnosis of autism becoming ever more present (1 in 68 children in the United States), we felt that it was crucial to address autism awareness in our own community.
Many families are affected by autism, and even if you aren’t one of them, we want our families to be aware of what exactly autism is, how it impacts some of our loved ones, and how we can help to take to #StandUpForAutism.
What is autism?
If you’ve heard about it, but aren’t really sure what it is, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that is often detected in early childhood and can affect a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. There are varying degrees of autism and it can impact individuals differently.
Some common behaviors associated with autism can include a delayed learning of language, difficulty holding eye contact or conversation, lack of interest in social relationships, fixation on parts of objects, etc.
While there isn’t a known direct cause of autism yet and it can’t be “outgrown”, autism can be treated and early diagnosis is key in helping to overcome obstacles that children who have autism might face.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children get screened for autism at 18 and 24 months of age. Please talk to your pediatrician to ensure that your child is receiving these screenings on their visits.
Traditionally, the screening is broken up into two components: a developmental screening and a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation. Much like it sounds, the developmental screening is an assessment of interaction with the child and observation of how they learn, speak, and move. The comprehensive diagnostic evaluation is considered the second step of the process and is a thorough review of the child’s behavior and development. It is possible that this could include a hearing and vision screening, neurological testing, etc.
Talking to Our Children
Many of our children are too young to fully understand what autism is; however, there are things that we can say and encourage to ensure that they are accepting of children who might have autism. It’s important for our children to know that everyone’s brain works differently and that sometimes that can impact how we act and feel. Let your child know that some boys and girls like to make loud noises, but some boys and girls don’t like those noises and that we should be mindful of all of our friends’ feelings before assuming they like all of the same things that we do. We encourage you to have an open discussion with your child/children about being kind to everyone, no matter their situation, and how being different is OK.