Autism Acceptance Month
This April, we are joining the Autism Society of America in its third annual “Celebrate Differences” campaign in honor of Autism Acceptance Month. #CelebrateDifferences encourages individuals with autism and their families to live full, quality lives through connection and acceptance. This year, we acknowledge the shift from “Awareness” to “Acceptance.” While we will always work to spread awareness, words matter -- the need for acceptance is greater than ever, as we strive for autistic individuals to live fully in all areas of life. To highlight the importance of fostering acceptance we are using the following hashtags in our social media posts: #AutismAcceptanceMonth #CelebrateDifferences #IAmMe. We invite you to do the same as we work to build an inclusive society where individuals with autism live fully through connection and acceptance.
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects an estimated 1 in 54 children in the United States today. We know that there is not one autism but many subtypes, most influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. 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. Several factors may influence the development of autism, 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. Signs of autism usually appear by age 2 or 3. 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. ("What is Autism?", AutismSpeaks.com, 2021).
* In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association merged four distinct autism diagnoses into one umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They included autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome.
Autism’s sensory issues can involve both hyper-sensitivities (over-responsiveness) and hypo-sensitivities (under-responsiveness) to a wide range of stimuli.
These can involve:
Body awareness (proprioception)
For example, many people on the spectrum are hyper-sensitive to bright lights or certain light wavelengths (e.g. from fluorescent lights). Many find certain sounds, smells and tastes overwhelming. Certain types of touch (light or deep) can feel extremely uncomfortable.
This video, by two students at the Ringling College of Art & Design, simulates the “sensory overload” experienced by many people affected by autism.
Hypo-sensitivities are likewise common. A low sensitivity to pain is a classic example. Another is under-responsiveness to the body signals that help control balance and physical coordination. This can result in clumsiness, which has long been associated with autism.
How can I help someone with autism-related sensitivities?
Awareness and accommodation can help ease related discomfort. Remember each person with autism is unique, and this includes their personal sensitivities.