Imagine being told that your child would never give you a hug or say, “I love you.” Imagine that your child would never live independently. Many parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities face these realities every day. ASD is used to describe a group of developmental disorders which range in severity, symptoms and level of disability. These include autism, Asperger’s syndrome, and other disorders which affect a child’s ability to communicate and socialize. April is Autism Awareness Month and provides an opportunity to highlight the importance of support for research, early intervention, timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
The national statistics are startling. One in 68 children in the United States is diagnosed with ASD. In addition, there are increased rates of intellectual disabilities, ADHD, learning disabilities and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. It is clear that the need to address our children’s developmental health has reached a critical stage.
Given the national prevalence rates, it is highly likely that most Americans will know or interact with a family impacted by ASD. Take time to learn more about ASD and the impact it can have on children and their families. Be understanding of situations that may cause a child with ASD to be emotional or challenged. For example, if you see a child having a temper tantrum in the grocery store, don’t immediately assume the parents do not have control of the situation as many children with ASD get overstimulated in public situations. Children with autism can have a difficult time making friends, so encourage your child to be inclusive and accepting. Invite your friend’s child to participate in a play group or family outing and ask the family how best to have your child interact
with him or her. And most of all, help raise awareness by advocating for access to services which are much needed by families. Many states have less than adequate services for children with ASD and many insurance companies do not provide the level of coverage needed.
When parents, extended families, healthcare providers, caregivers and lawmakers work together, great outcomes can be achieved that will undoubtedly have a meaningful impact on the future of children with autism.