World Autism Awareness Day is celebrated across the globe on April 2. This day was created by the United Nations in 2007 to raise awareness about autism and the people who have Autism Spectrum Disorder. This holiday is one of only seven official United Nations Health holidays. The main goal is this holiday is to unite people in not only learning about autism but to come together to work on research, treatment, and acceptance.
What is Autism?
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, is used to describe a wide range of developmental conditions that can create difficulties with social skills, speech, and nonverbal communication. Autism affects 1 in 59 children in the United States today. Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning there is not one specific type of autism but rather a range. These subtypes are often influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Due to this, every case of autism is different and each person has a distinct set of strengths and challenges that they face. The way in which people with autism are able to interact with daily life around them and think ranges from highly skilled to extremely challenged. Some people cannot live independently while others can live independently with very little support. There is still much research to be done on what causes autism, but it has been known to cause other health issues. This can be manifested as sensory sensitivities and medical issues as well as sleep disorders and mental health issues. Signs that a child has autism usually appears around age 2 or 3. Sometimes autism can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Early intervention can greatly help a child with autism and leads to positive outcomes later in life.
Interacting with People with Autism
The important thing to understand is that people with autism should be accepted and valued just like everyone else. That being said there are some ways to be more accommodating to people with autism and their needs.
Understand when they need space - Sometimes, symptoms of autism can manifest in sensory overload. This may mean that an individual with autism may need to withdraw for a little bit in order to calm down and be less overwhelmed. This is perfectly fine and this may mean you extracting yourself from the situation or allowing them to do so.
Do not stare - Many people with autism are aware that the behavior they perform may be a little strange. They know that oftentimes the behaviors they perform to calm themselves down may be considered atypical by others. Some people with autism are very self conscious about these behaviors and may not perform them and therefore make themselves more upset. If you see someone performing these behaviors, the best course of action is simply to ignore and not call attention to them.
They don’t mean to be rude - The verbal filter that many of us have developed may not be the case for people with autism. Many people with autism will say exactly what is on their mind, which may be alarming to some people. Instead of getting angry at the person, explain to them why exactly you are upset. Like anyone, they will not know what they did wrong unless you tell them.