On Tuesday, April 2, Carl Albert State College faculty, staff, and students joined the Pervasive Parenting Center and local community members to celebrate Autism Awareness Day with personal testimonies and a balloon release.
Autism is a neurological disorder that affects the way a person’s brain processes information. In turn they can have deficits in communication and social skills. However, given the proper supports and therapies, they can become hyper-focused in certain areas of interest and excel beyond imagination.
“The Center for Disease Control says that 1 in 59 children are diagnosed now with autism,” said Kodey Toney, Director of the Pervasive Parenting Center. “That is up from 1 in 100 eleven years ago when my son Konner was diagnosed. This is an epidemic. It’s no longer about awareness. It’s about acceptance. We have to accept those on the spectrum for the awesome people they are, and the contributions they can make to our communities. We need to rally around them as a community and support them.”
A few years ago, if you asked a group of individuals if they or someone they know were autistic only a few hands would rise. Today, nearly everyone in the crowd would raise their hands. Toney credits this to public awareness and doctors who know what symptoms to look for when diagnosing individuals.
Because autism is a spectrum disorder, each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges. The ways in which people with autism learn, think and problem-solve can range from highly skilled to severely challenged. Some people with ASD may require significant support in their daily lives, while others may need less support and, in some cases, live entirely independently, according to autismspeaks.org
Several factors may influence the development of autism, according to autismspeaks.org, and it is often accompanied by sensory sensitivities and medical issues such as gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures or sleep disorders, as well as mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression and attention issues.
Indicators of autism usually appear by age 2 or 3, according to the website. Some associated development delays can appear even earlier, and often, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Research shows that early intervention leads to positive outcomes later in life for people with autism.
April is Autism Awareness Month and people from around the globe are recognizing individuals with autism by wearing light blue. CASC encourages the community to spread awareness of autism by wearing light blue throughout the rest of the month.