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April is World Autism Month

Date: April 16, 2021

April is World Autism Month, dedicated to increasing awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorder.

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of children living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is now 1 in 54 and impacts families across all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.

Autism is a complex, lifelong developmental disability that typically appears during early childhood and can impact a person’s social skills, communication, relationships, and self-regulation. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum condition” that affects people differently and to varying degrees. 

While there is currently no known single cause of autism, early diagnosis helps a person receive the support and services that they need, which can lead to a quality life filled with opportunity.

On April 2, the nation-wide autism awareness campaign, Light It Up Blue, kicked off in recognition of April as Autism Awareness Month. Light It Up Blue encourages learning about ASD, which helps to establish an environment where one is accepted for their abilities and not their disabilities.

According to Autism Speaks, a leading national organization on advocacy, ASD now affects about 1.8 percent of Americans. Over the years, the number of individuals diagnosed with ASD has increased.

This is not because ASD is a new condition, but because it is being diagnosed more frequently as medical providers are able to recognize the signs and symptoms at an earlier age and in the milder form.

ASD is a wide framework of different indicators and impairments that can readily be impacted by early intervention. People with ASD do not have any physical markers that identify them as having ASD, nor is there a lab test, X-ray, or scan to confirm a diagnosis.

Diagnosis is based on a series of symptoms, behaviors, and a combination of responses on supported assessments. It is an individual’s behavior and how they interact or perceive their environment that sets them apart in general society.

Although it is widely known that people with ASD have above average intelligence, some have said their world is concrete while trying to exist in a conceptual world, like a game where no one shared the rules or gave instructions on how to use the equipment.

Others think of ASD as a puzzle, where a person is trying to figure out how all the pieces fit. For many, things like social norms, understanding nuances and reacting appropriately to vague statements or requests become exceedingly difficult and almost prohibit the person from readily participating in the world.

We need to realize that when we meet one person with autism, that is it — we have met that one individual person with autism. Each individual is unique and has different indicators that add up to determine the level of severity.

The earlier the diagnosis, and the more engaged families are with comprehensive supports, therapies, and strategies, the more readily the person and family can decrease the negative impact.

Genetics may be a contributing factor. If one family member has been diagnosed, the possibility of another family member having ASD increases. In addition, ASD appears to affect boys more frequently than girls. It does not appear to be affected by financial or environmental factors, or by the configuration of a family unit. ASD does not discriminate, and it impacts both the individual and family members.

As with many things in life — a situation or condition can either be viewed in a dark, dim light or in a bright, positive light — Light It Up Blue suggests placing ASD in a positive and unique light. Some use AUTISM as an acronym: Always Unique, Totally Interesting and Sometimes Mysterious.

As Flight Attendants, most of us at one time or another have likely encountered a passenger on our Flight with autism. Whether it is the proactive mother who hands you a lollipop and a card explaining what may happen and looking to you for compassion or when we may unexpectedly find ourselves aware of it mid-flight, one of our specialties as professionals is to understand, support and offer kindness. To further learn more about autism, or for the latest updates on autism and developmental disorders, visit the CDC website or Autism Speaks.

 

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