“The things that make me different are the things that make me.”—A.A. Milne
It’s National Autism Awareness month. I haven’t had a lot of experience with autism, but I know it affects many people in my community. To raise my awareness, I did some research including reading articles, watching videos and following several Instagram accounts. It’s a far cry from living with autism, but it’s a start in my understanding of this disorder. Knowledge leads to compassion and acceptance. Here are a few of the many things I learned:
- Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is “a brain disorder that that affects a person's ability to communicate, to reason, and to interact with others.”
- Autism varies greatly from person to person. Just like no two people are the same, no two people with autism have the same behaviors or symptoms.
- Early intervention is key to minimizing the symptoms. They will never go away, but they can be greatly reduced.
- Nonverbal doesn’t mean “stupid” or “retarded”. Neither do any of the other behaviors.
- Lack of eye contact or a response doesn’t mean disinterest or ignoring. It may stem from processing a lot of information, anxiety or lacking the social skills to respond.
- Autism is expensive to treat. In addition to the many different therapies (behavioral, occupational, speech) needed, many people with autism also have medical conditions such as allergies, asthma, and digestive and sleeping disorders.
- Be patient and don’t judge those with autism, their families and caregivers. And don’t offer “advice”.
- Autism doesn’t make you any less amazing!