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Autism Awareness Month 101- Why Should You Care?

April is Autism Awareness Month, a time to shine a spotlight on a condition that affects millions worldwide. But what exactly is autism, and why should you care? In this blog, we’ll explore the basics of autism, its prevalence, the importance of awareness, and how you can ensure effective treatment and support for individuals on the spectrum.

What is Autism?

Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts an individual’s social skills, communication abilities, and behavior. It’s called a spectrum disorder because it encompasses a wide range of symptoms and severity levels, from mild to severe. People with autism may experience challenges with social interaction, repetitive behaviors, sensory sensitivities, and communication difficulties.

In 2023 alone, 1 in 36 children is now diagnosed with autism. This is a drastic increase from 1 in 44 children affected with autism two years ago. According to research from the CDC, boys are 4x more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls, making it a deadly situation for the world out there. Also, even though children are diagnosed with autism before the age of two, most of the children are only diagnosed after the age of four.

This prevalence has been steadily increasing over the years, leading to greater awareness and understanding of the condition. However, autism is not limited to children—it affects individuals of all ages, backgrounds, and ethnicities worldwide.

What Causes Autism?

There could be different range of factors that contribute to the prognosis of autism. These factors are divided amongst genetic, environmental and neurological. Studies have shown that individuals with autism often have genetic mutations or variations that affect brain development.

Rare genetic mutations include SHANK3, FMR1 and PTEN, and they contribute to subtle changes in the brain structure and function, influencing a baby’s susceptibility to autism. Apart from that, epigenetic changes including altering gene expression (caused by stress, nutrition, and early-life experiences) may also lead to autism.

In most cases, autism is confirmed with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (or fMRI), which reveals alterations in brain connectivity and structure. Areas such as amygdala, prefrontal cortex, and corpus callosum may show abnormalities, which could impact a child’s overall social behavior, emotional regulation and sensory processing.

Why Should You Care?

Understanding and raising awareness about autism is crucial for several reasons (especially this autism awareness month):

1. Empathy and Acceptance: Individuals with autism often face stigma, discrimination, and misunderstanding from society. By educating ourselves and others about autism, we can foster empathy, acceptance, and inclusivity. As a part of Autism Awareness Month, schools in Canada take an extra step to make autism a mandatory part of their curriculum.

2. Support and Resources: Increased awareness leads to better support systems and resources for individuals on the autism spectrum and their families. From educational programs to community services, awareness drives positive change and enhances the quality of life for those affected by autism.

In case you want to read about autism, here are some resources:

3. Early Intervention: Early diagnosis and intervention can significantly improve outcomes for individuals with autism. By recognizing the signs of autism and seeking help early, we can ensure timely access to therapies, interventions, and support services that can make a profound difference in a person’s life.

4. Diverse Perspectives: People with autism often have unique perspectives, talents, and strengths that enrich our society. Embracing neurodiversity not only benefits individuals with autism but also fosters innovation, creativity, and inclusion in our communities.

Also, read about foods that help increase brain power and concentration.

Autism Awareness Month- Treatment and More

So, how can you make sure that treatment and support for individuals with autism are on point? Here are some key strategies:

1. Education and Awareness: Educate yourself and others about autism. Learn about the signs and symptoms, as well as the strengths and challenges associated with the condition. Share information with friends, family, colleagues, and community members to promote understanding and acceptance.

2. Early Screening and Diagnosis: Be proactive about screening for autism, especially in young children. Early detection allows for early intervention, which can lead to better outcomes. If you notice any red flags or developmental delays in a child’s behavior, consult with a healthcare professional for further evaluation.

3. Access to Services and Support: Advocate for access to comprehensive services and support for individuals with autism and their families. This may include therapies such as applied behavior analysis (ABA), speech therapy, occupational therapy, and special education programs. Ensure that these services are tailored to meet the individual needs of each person on the spectrum.

4. Promote Inclusion and Acceptance: Create an inclusive environment where individuals with autism feel valued, respected, and accepted. Encourage inclusive practices in schools, workplaces, and communities, such as sensory-friendly accommodations, peer support programs, and anti-bullying initiatives.

5. Listen and Learn from Autistic Voices: Amplify the voices of individuals with autism and involve them in decision-making processes that affect their lives. By listening to their experiences, insights, and preferences, we can create more supportive and empowering environments for all.

Autism Awareness Month serves as a reminder that understanding, acceptance, and support are essential for individuals on the autism spectrum to thrive. By raising awareness, advocating for inclusivity, and ensuring access to effective treatment and support, we can create a more inclusive and compassionate society where everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential.

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