Sunday, April 2, 2017

World Autism Awareness Day

Today is the 9th annual World Autism Awareness Day. Autism was known by various names in years past, such as: Autism, Asperger's Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder. Within the past few years, Autism was brought under one umbrella and labelled the Autism Spectrum. No two people diagnosed with Autism exhibit the same exact symptoms nor will they react in the same exact ways. In fact, as the mother of a child with a diagnosis of Autism, I can attest that my own child doesn't even react the same way to situations from one day to the next. Some days are easier than others.

What exactly is Autism? Autism is a neurologic developmental disorder that can impact social skills, cause repetitive behaviors, and impair speech. My son is at the high-functioning end of the Autism Spectrum. This means his challenges pertain mainly to social skills. Although he is very verbal and quite talkative, he can have difficulty communicating his thoughts at times. As for repetitive behaviors, we have only seen these when he becomes very upset.

Autism is often diagnosed in early childhood. However, my son wasn't diagnosed until he was eleven, which isn't uncommon among those who are deemed high-functioning.

Things that upset my son include loud noises, unexpected changes, perspectives that are different from his own, and things he doesn't understand. When he does become upset, he knows he needs to find a quiet place to calm down. Then, he can refocus and try again.

My son would tell you; "I have Autism. That just means that my brain processes things differently than yours does." I couldn't have said it better or more simple.

Having this special boy in my life has made me a better person. I love seeing the world through his eyes.

Autism can have its challenges but it has its beautiful blessings as well.

Autism and all mental health diagnoses don't have to be feared. They're often misunderstood because we don't make the effort to understand people who are different. The more educated we become, the better our world becomes for each and every one of us.

To learn more about Autism, visit Autism Speaks, the Autism Society of America, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders websites.

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