Autism is a growing problem affecting about one in 150 children of all ethnic backgrounds and economic levels, with 25,000 new cases each year. Increasing even faster than the autistic population is autism awareness. Those with autism appear normal but may behave oddly. Many are too severely impaired in their speech and ability to learn to care for themselves. The National Autism Society established April as National Autism Awareness Month in 1972 to raise autism awareness for a variety of important reasons.
Raising autism awareness makes pediatricians better able to spot the sometimes-elusive symptoms in small children. Spreading news about autism on television shows and in magazines during April helps parents to answer the questions raised by their babies’ behaviors. Autism typically appears before the age of three. Diagnosing conditions that don’t have physical manifestations can be very difficult, especially in a spectrum disorder that appears with different sets of behaviors and varied levels of severity in different people.
The sooner that autism is diagnosed, the sooner therapy can begin and the better the results in the end. Autism awareness helps develop more effective treatments as well as research into the causes and effects of the condition. The spread of accurate information aids in raising money and influencing legislation that will help the families, schools and communities dealing with autism.
As important as therapeutic treatment is the treatment by the community. High functioning autistic people are often mainstreamed because they can handle the schoolwork but are subjected to harassment and bullying because of their odd behavior. Raising autism awareness makes the autistic behaviors seem less strange and provides members of the community who deal with autistic people more capacity to understand.
Increased autism awareness broadens the interest in the disorder to include associated issues. Autism affects the entire body, not just the brain, so many of those affected by the disorder have related problems. Besides the obvious issues concerning speech, physical and developmental therapy, research is being conducted into dietary issues, the role of toxic mercury in autism, environmental issues, and assistance for independent adults with autism. As the general public becomes educated about autism, support for research and legislation becomes stronger.
Besides the National Autism Society, there are many agencies and organizations working to raise autism awareness, including the Center for Disease Control, Department of Education, and state and local groups. Do your part by becoming more knowledgeable about autism and raising autism awareness.