Have you seen the movie Rainman or a television show and think you know all there is to know about autism? Think again. People who have the disorder called autism may be “very autistic” or “not very autistic.” They may be smart, verbal and have autism or mentally retarded, speak only a bit or not at all and have autism. Because the range of symptoms is so broad, autism is considered a spectrum disorder. The most noteworthy symptom that all people who have this disorder share is a difficulty with social communication (i.e. conversation, eye contact, empathy, etc.).
World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) will be celebrated on April 2nd as it has been every year since it was adopted by the United Nations in 2007. Its purpose: to shine a light on autism as a growing global health crisis. According to the Autism Society, here’s how “growing” a health crisis it is:
· 1 percent of the population of children in the U.S. ages 3-17 have an autism spectrum disorder.
· Its prevalence is estimated at 1 in 88 births.
· 1 to 1.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder.
· It is the fastest-growing developmental disability with a 10 – 17 % annual growth.
· It has a $60 billion annual cost.
· 60% of costs are in adult services.
· The cost of lifelong care can be reduced by 2/3 with early diagnosis and intervention.
· In 10 years, the annual cost will be $200-400 billion.
Indeed, the Autism Society estimates that “the lifetime cost of caring for a child with autism ranges from $3.5 million to $5 million, and that the United States is facing almost $90 billion annually in costs for autism (this figure includes research, insurance costs and non-covered expenses, Medicaid waivers for autism, educational spending, housing, transportation, employment, in addition to related therapeutic services and caregiver costs).”
World Autism Day activities will be celebrated throughout the month of April as it remembers the unique talents and skills of individuals who have autism. So how can you help a person with autism? According to the folks at Autism Initiatives (www.autisminitiatives.org):
· When talking with them, use visual cues. For example, when visiting my nephew who just happens to have autism, I show him pictures on my phone to help him process what I’m talking about.
· Break down what you’re saying into chunks, examine what you’re saying (speak literally, not figuratively), and give them time to process the information.
· Give them choices and let them communicate what they want. Repeat the choices if necessary.
· Establish and follow their routines.
Most of all, try to understand the individuals behind the autism and don’t be blinded by the disorder itself. They may think differently, but they do think.
For more information about Autism Awareness Day, visit http://liub.autismspeaks.org/welcome.
Sources for the information in this article include:
Please note that this article originally appeared on the website The Geek Parent (www.thegeekparent.com).