April is National Autism Awareness Month – a time to raise awareness about autism and how to be inclusive throughout society to individuals living with autism.
Autism refers to a spectrum condition characterized by a range of symptoms that may affect communication and social-interaction skills. Symptoms can be mild to more considerable, requiring assistance with performing daily living activities. The cause of autism is still not completely understood, but as diagnostic capabilities improve and prevalence increases, this month is the perfect time to address common misunderstandings about the condition and explore ways to get involved.
Although there may not be a cure, identifying autism early can help minimize the severity of symptoms. Signs of autism include sensitivity to sounds, avoidance of eye contact, making repetitive noises or movements, preference of solo play, and loss of language. Individuals living with autism may also have a proclivity for following a specific daily routine or fixate on particular topics, committing a wide variety of information to memory.
According to the Center for Autism & Related Disorders, autism affects one in 68 children and occurs more frequently in boys than girls.
If you’d like to get involved in Autism Awareness Month in your area, here are a few ways to get started!
Be an Advocate
Help raise awareness in your community by being an advocate. Try reaching out to your local Autism Society affiliate to learn more about events and education opportunities near you. You can also check out Autism Speaks to stay up-to-date on legislative initiatives related to healthcare, housing, education, employment, and insurance that meet the needs of individuals living with autism.
Go for a Walk
Sign up for an Autism Speaks walk in your community. Walks are typically 2–3 miles long and are a great way to get involved, show your support, and learn more. You can raise money for research and support services for individuals living with autism. If you can’t participate in a walk, you can donate directly to the cause or become an official sponsor.
Catch a Movie
AMC Theatres across the country are beginning to offer sensory-friendly movies in partnership with the Autism Society. Rather than a typical movie atmosphere, sensory-friendly movies allow attendees to bring their own snacks to accommodate dietary needs. Lights are left on, the sound is softer, ads and previews are omitted, and movement or speaking during the movie is considered part of the viewing experience.
If you’d like to learn more, check out this free Autism 101 online course from the Autism Society.