Today, Blue is Beautiful. Today we Light it Up.

Today we're all wearing blue. 
My Mom, my sister, my co-workers, my husband (the Empire State Building...)
We're wearing it because we're taking part in the Light it Up Blue movement. We're wearing it because we want to help make a difference. We're wearing it because today, April 2nd 2013, is the 6th annual World Autism Awareness Day.

The truth is that the majority of you who read this post won't know much about Autism. A disorder far more common than many realize or are willing to admit, yet something the majority of the population know next to nothing about. Sure, you may know someone diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), but do you really understand what that means? Do you know the signs of Autism? How common it is? What to do if you suspect a child is Autistic? 

Take this, for example. Did you know this?

"Autism statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify around 1 in 88 American children as on the autism spectrum–a ten-fold increase in prevalence in 40 years. Careful research shows that this increase is only partly explained by improved diagnosis and awareness. Studies also show that autism is four to five times more common among boys than girls. An estimated 1 out of 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls are diagnosed with autism in the United States. By way of comparison, more children are diagnosed with autism each year than with juvenile diabetes, AIDS or cancer, combined. Autism Spectrum Disorder affects over 2 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide. Moreover, government autism statistics suggest that prevalence rates have increased 10 to 17 percent annually in recent years."
AutismSpeaks.orge (2013)

or this?

"A growing body of research suggests that a woman can reduce her risk of having a child with autism by taking prenatal vitamins containing folic acid and/or eating a diet rich in folic acid (at least 600 mcg a day) during the months before and after conception."  

or this?

"Many of those on the autism spectrum have exceptional abilities in visual skills, music and academic skills. About 40 percent have average to above average intellectual abilities. Indeed, many persons on the spectrum take deserved pride in their distinctive abilities and “atypical” ways of viewing the world."

As a parent, caregiver or educator it's critical that you're able to identify early signs of Autism within the children you care for. Recognizing these red flags means that you're able to seek the appropriate medical, educational and emotional support to help a child succeed. 

Some things to look for are as follows:

  • No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter
  • No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions by nine months
  • No babbling by 12 months
  • No back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving by 12 months
  • No words by 16 months
  • No meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating) by 24 months
  • Any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age
Studies have demonstrated that by identifying these things, seeking specialist attention and early intensive behavioral intervention, vast improvements in learning, communication and social skills among young children with ASD are monumental. The most obvious signs of Autism tend to emerge between the ages of 2 and 3 years old, so please, if you suspect that a child, whether it be your own or someone else, may have ASD, take the appropriate steps to ensure that their needs are met. Ask questions, speak to your doctor, request to see a specialist. 

As a Behavioral Interventionist I am blessed in that every week I have the opportunity to work with children diagnosed with ASD. I've been able to see, first hand, the significance early intensive support has, and the direct positive impacts it can have on a child's ability to learn, develop social skills and communicate. I see progress and positive changes in ASD children that I know wouldn't take place had diagnosis not been early and intensive support unavailable. I'm lucky to be able to Autistic children thrive. To see him succeed.  The reality is that there are children and families who don't have that support, never get that opportunity. 

Autism is real. It's prevalent. It's something we need to be educated about and able to identify. Today especially, take the time to research ASD. To understand it. To spread the word. The entire month of April is devoted to Autism Awareness so please become educated a help promote awareness.

Together we can make a difference.

For more information about Autism, or to help spread awareness you can visit the following websites.


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