The Importance of Autism Awareness

Heather Chaet

autism awareness monthWe do a lot of things in April. We celebrate Passover and Easter, file our taxes (ugh), and wait for those spring showers to bring flowers and play foolish pranks on those we love. We celebrate the birthdays of both Shakespeare and Kristen Stewart -- never thought those two would go together, huh? But, most importantly, April is Autism Awareness Month.

Sure, we see (and wear) the puzzle piece pins, we read articles on what could cause autism, we hear celebrities give their thoughts on autism. It's a constantly changing, evolving process to understand autism.

I don't have a child on the spectrum. I have friends with children, nephews, grandchildren with autism. I talk with mommy friends about it. We all watched for the signs, tracked milestones, looking for any indication of autism. Why did we do this? Because many organizations have done a great job of getting the word out there about autism -- not just in April, but every month, every day of the year.

It is a loaded, complex topic to discuss. It's a hot button topic and very personal.

Not only is the topic of autism complex, autism itself is complicated. There are different levels of severity, different combinations of symptoms ... which is why research has led to so many different theories on what may cause autism. We have the oft-debated relationship with vaccines, gene mutation, having babies too close together, metal poisoning, watching too much TV ... and the list goes on.

But no one really knows. The fact remains that 1 in every 110 children is diagnosed with autism. That stat makes autism more common than juvenile diabetes, childhood cancer, and pediatric AIDS combined. And no one knows why.

April is Autism Awareness Month, but really, we need to be aware of it every month. It doesn't just affect moms and families that have autism in their lives every day. The more we all are aware, the more we can understand what we can do to help, the more we can teach our kids how to be good friends for a buddy on the spectrum, the more we can call for changes to health insurance policies and laws so families have easier access to autism services and care.

In the U.S., 1.5 million individuals have autism, and some say the prevalence rate is increasing 10 to 17 percent every year. Autism isn't just a concern for a mom of an autistic child. Autism is a concern for all of us. Sure, this April, get out there, learn, be informed -- but let's keep the discussion going all year.

How does autism affect you?


Image via jail4bail/Flickr

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