Autism Awareness Month

autismApril is Autism awareness month. Somehow I missed Autism day and had intended to post something earlier but it just didn’t happen.

WHAT IS AUTISM?

I found the following description from AutismSpeaks.org

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. They include autistic disorder, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome. . . . ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. Some persons with ASD excel in visual skills, music, math and art. [Source: What is Autism?]

I also liked KidsHealth.Org explanation of Autism.

People usually call it autism (say: aw-tih-zum), but the official name is autism spectrum disorders. Why? Because doctors include autism in a group of problems that kids can have, including Asperger syndrome and others. These problems happen when the brain develops differently and has trouble with an important job: making sense of the world. [Source: Autism]

WHAT I’VE LEARNED

I have no special training on Autism. I’m not an expert. My knowledge has come from On-The-Job-Training. Over the years I have had several students on the Autism Spectrum. Personally, I have several friends whose families have been effected by Autism. As an educator I am intrigued when students have issues that interfere with learning. It becomes a puzzle or mystery that needs solving. Finding a solution to help my students succeed is an important part of an educators job. I would like to share a few things I’ve learned.

People are people even if are not like you. One very important lesson I learned from my dad was to look beyond whatever issue someone has to see the person. People with Autism are people first. They have same needs for food, clothing, safety, love and acceptance as others. Think about how you would want to be treated or you would want your child, sibling or family member treated.

A word on labels, okay I have several words about labels. Labels can be a useful tool in describing or understanding issues. The use of labels can also be dehumanizing. Somehow it takes the emphasis off the person. Instead of stopping with a label take some time to find the real person often hiding behind the label.

Red balls are cool. No, I’m not having an ADHD moment, I have a point. One trait of autism is a fascination with a few topic or an object. An obsession on one subject or attachment can seem odd or weird.  We all have that one friend who is avid fan of “insert team or school name here” or the friend who is an “expert” on “insert random topic”.  You know the kind. It seems that everything they own is team/school related. All that is accepted as normal. The difference between normal and abnormal behavior is often the frequency, duration and insistent of the behavior.  Many times abnormal behavior is normal behavior taken to the extreme.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Be a friend. This may sound simplistic but it is a biggie.  Autism often impairs communication and interpersonal skills.

Be acceptance.  We all have a need to be accepted and feel like we belong.

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came. Cheers Theme Song

Be understanding of issues not judgmental. Remember we all have issues.

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