April is Autism Awareness month. Over the last 10 years, recognition of Autism Spectrum Disorder has grown significantly. Organizations such as Autism Speaks and the National Autism Association have increased dialogue about what the autism spectrum is and its symptoms and treatments.
According to the National Autism Association, “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to a group of complex neurodevelopment disorders characterized by repetitive and characteristic patterns of behavior and difficulties with social communication and interaction. The symptoms are present from early childhood and affect daily functioning.”
People often ask the question, “What does autism look like?” While this can unintentionally seem to be a loaded and offensive question, it does not have a simple answer. Autism Spectrum Disorder is exactly that, a spectrum. Google dictionary describes a spectrum as “Used to classify something, or suggest that it can be classified in terms of its position on a scale between two extreme or opposite points.” This wide range allows for the focus to be less about a diagnosis and more about an individual. In Poudre School District, education is about the student first with a diagnosis offering additional pieces to support an understanding of the student from a clinical standpoint.
According to AutismSpeaks.org., “Each individual with autism is unique. Many of those on the autism spectrum have exceptional abilities in visual skills, music and academic skills. About 40 percent have intellectual disability (IQ less than 70), and many have normal to above average intelligence. Indeed, many persons on the spectrum take deserved pride in their distinctive abilities and “atypical” ways of viewing the world. Others with autism have significant disability and are unable to live independently. About 25 percent of individuals with ASD are nonverbal but can learn to communicate using other means.”
Awareness builds better understanding, and better understanding leads to greater acceptance. April awareness is a great opportunity to kick off the conversation.
Poudre School District Integrated Services Director: Sarah Belleau 2407 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521