Since April is World Autism Month, I’ve decided to #LightItUpBlue with Autism Speaks to increase understanding and awareness of autism. The issue is deeply personal to me as a mom of a child with autism. It’s highly likely that you know someone with autism too since the CDC estimates autism’s prevalence as 1 in every 68 children in the United States.
Last year after a horrible incident with our oldest son involving a youth camp, we began to look for answers about why some grown ups didn’t “get” him or know how to communicate clearly with him. It was so frustrating as a parent to know that this wasn’t just my child’s fault, but a break down in effective communication. Our search for clearer answers led us to an official diagnosis as we learned that Evan is on the autism spectrum. What I learned from this experience is that even with more awareness of autism is today there are still many of my generation who simply do not know how to be around people with autism. Perhaps you are unsure – I know I’ve learned a lot in the past year. Autism refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. We now know that there is not one autism but many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences.
Autism’s most obvious signs tend to appear between 2 and 3 years of age. In some cases, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Autism Speaks encourages parents with concerns to seek evaluation without delay, as early intervention can improve outcomes. We didn’t get an early diagnosis, however our homeschooling work with Evan really helped him eliminate some of the anxiety issues he may have otherwise developed. I just wish I could help EVERYONE understand more about autism and what it means to be on the spectrum.
The “Light It Up Blue” campaign is about more than awareness — it is about increasing understanding and acceptance of autism. This includes advocacy and support for people across the entire spectrum throughout their lives. It also includes advancing research into personalized treatments for autism and related conditions. I encourage you test your understanding of autism by taking this quiz!
You can help make a difference too by taking the Light It Up Blue Quiz see how much you know about autism. If you’re moved to do so after visiting AutismSpeaks.org, please show your support for and understanding of the challenges faced by individuals with autism by sharing a photo to #LightItUpBlue for Autism Awareness Month too. Also, check out Autism Speaks’ nationwide calendar of autism-friendly events and activities in April.