April Is Autism Awareness Month
The aim of this month is to educate the public about autism. Autism is a complex mental condition and developmental disability, characterized by difficulties in the way a person communicates and interacts with other people. Autism can be present from birth or form during early childhood (typically within the first three years). Autism is a lifelong developmental disability with no single known cause.
Autism affects approximately 1 in every 150 people in the United States.
People with autism are classed as having Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the terms autism and ASD are often used interchangeably. A wide spectrum disorder, people with autism have a set of symptoms unique to themselves; no two people are the same.
There are common characteristics found in those with this complex disability. These characteristics include:
- Social Skills. People with autism have problems interacting with others. Mild symptoms on one end of the spectrum may be displayed through clumsy behavior, being out of sync with those around them and inappropriate or offensive comments being made. At the other end of the spectrum, an autistic person my not be interested in others.
- Empathy. Empathy is the ability to recognize and understand the feelings of another person. People with autism find it harder to show empathy to others although they can be taught to acknowledge the other feelings.
- Physical Contact. In some cases, autistic people do not like physical contact such as hugs, tickling or physical play with others.
- Sudden Changes To Their Environment. A sudden change in the surrounding environment may affect a person with autism. This could be a loud noise, a change in intensity of lightning or even a change in smell.
- Speech. ‘Echolalia’ is a typical speech symptom in which a person repeats words and phrases that they hear. The speech tone of an autistic person may be monotonous. Where symptoms are severe, the person may not speak.
- Changes To Behavior And Routine. People with autism often display repetitive behavior in which they repeat the same action many times over. Any change to their behavior or routine can be unsettling for them. This could be a reordering of daily activities such as when a person brushes their teeth, takes a shower and has breakfast when they get up in the morning.
Other characteristics of autism include an unpredictable learning rate, obsessions and physical tics.