Today is Autism Awareness Day.
Autism is quite a complex disability. Many people say "if you've met one person on the autism spectrum, you've met one person on the autism spectrum," because it presents in a wide array of symptoms and severity amongst those that are diagnosed with the developmental disorder. Just over a year ago, it was published that 1 in every 68 births in the US resulted in a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Wow, that is a lot of children. I surely hope as research continues, we will find an answer to decrease that number and best support those who struggle with its symptoms, but in the meantime, the closest I can do to evoke change is to speak out and spread awareness.
For those on the spectrum, early intervention (EI) greatly supports a positive trajectory of symptom management and future quality of life; children who receive EI have a much higher chance of "catching up" in their development by gaining critical social/emotional skills and cognitive gains at a young age. (Read more about early signs here.) I know this firsthand, as I have seen my sister Erin advocate and work hard to provide early intervention for my nephew Gabriel since the ripe age of two. He is now eight years old and doing well. Behavioral, occupational, speech, and physical therapy, as well as special education and medical intervention have all been stepping stones in providing my nephew a manageable and joyful experience throughout his boyhood. At one point, Erin thought Gabe might not ever say, "I love you," to her and now they say those words to each other every day-- and he tells me, too! As many families know, those that have the experience of a loved one on the Spectrum, there are always times of setbacks and continued challenges, but overall for our dear loved one, intervention has noticeably shed a difference on his life, thanks to my fighting Sister who has always been aware.
The more we share about the disability, the sooner more people will be aware of the signs and symptoms in babies, toddlers and children that may need the necessary tools to aid in prevention of more severe symptoms and worsening outcomes of ASD.
For more information about Autism, please visit Autism Society. On behalf of my nephew Gabe and Autism Awareness Day, Zach and I will be making a donation to the local Center for Autism Research at CHOP. To join us in our support for Autism Awareness Day, we would be obliged for your donation as well, thank you!