Those of you who follow me on Facebook have probably seen my cover photo and profile pic change like 15 times in the last two days. Sorry about that. I’ve been getting ready for National Autism Awareness Month. Most of you who follow this blog are already familiar with autism and its impact on the individual as well as their families. Many of you have personal experience with it. Certainly you are not the group that needs to have awareness raised. However, you, as teachers, family members, and individuals on the spectrum, are the folks who can help to raise others’ awareness. With the rising numbers of individuals diagnosed with autism, it’s surprising that people are not aware of what autism is and the impact that it can have. For those of us in the autism community, that is what April is about. Not helping them understand that autism exists, so much as helping them understand what autism means for the family, for the individual and for the community (large and small). In order to do that, you need tools of information to share. Being able to share information directly with the teacher down the hall who asks about it when she sees a ribbon on your Facebook page, or a neighbor who sees an autism ribbon that you are wearing, allows them to have a better understanding of autism and the needs of this very special community. The one thing we have always known about autism is that we need a community–and sometimes we need multiple communities–to help make the changes in our environments that make the world a better place for individuals on the spectrum. Here are some examples.
- ASD is the fastest growing developmental disability with an average 17% growth rate per year. One person is diagnosed with ASD every 20 minutes.
- ASDs are reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.
- Changes in screening processes over the years have led to an increase in screening toddlers for ASD, resulting in a 12-18% increase in diagnosis of ASD for children by the age of three.
- ASD costs the nation over $137 billion per year, a figure expected to significantly increase in the next decade.
- Individuals with ASD over a lifetime experience violent crime at a higher rate.
- During school years, 40 percent of children with autism and 60 percent of children with Asperger’s syndrome have experienced bullying.
- Bully victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims.
- Roughly half of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) attempt to elope from a safe environment, a rate nearly four times higher than their siblings who do not have autism.
- More than one-third of children with ASD who wander are never or rarely able to communicate their name, address, or phone number.
- Of the estimated 54 million Americans living with a disability, only 20 percent are employed or seeking employment, compared to almost 70 percent of Americans living without a disability.
Those facts come from a fact sheet distributed by the Autism Society of America and you can download it here. It has information on wandering, on employment and on the impact on families and economics of communities. For those of us in the autism community, now is the time to gear up with information and have it readily available.
Now is a time to help others in your school and your community understand what is needed to support families and individuals impacted by ASD. Now is the time to talk to local business owners about the opportunities they have for hiring people with ASD and educate them about the possibilities.
Now is the time to talk to firemen and policemen and other first responders and service providers about what autism is (and isn’t) so that they understand when they are trying to help someone or ascertain what happened in a situation and the person doesn’t respond the way they expect that it is because the person has autism, not because they are ignoring them or deliberately disobeying them.
Now is the time to contact your senators and congressmen to tell them of the need for funding and support for programs to counteract the huge financial burden that families face in getting help for their child with ASD and their family as a unit.
And now is the time to use social media to tweet, and pin and share information about autism and the needs of the community. Use hashtag #NAAM2014 on your messages to show the community that we are strong and growing but need their help. To help you spread the word about NAAM, I’ve created some Facebook cover photos and profile pictures below. You are welcome to download them and use on your Facebook page. Just right click on the picture you want below and save it to your computer then you can upload it to your Facebook page. Thanks to Lisa Parnello for creating this totally amazing artwork!
I will be back tomorrow with an exciting surprise of some of the things coming up this week. Stay tuned this week for linkups and other surprises as well as some blog posts about what autism means to me and how I got started with it in the first place. Until then, spread the word, download the free pics below, and you can always go to the Autism Society of America’s NAAM page for more ideas. The Autism Society actually started Autism Awareness Month? They started observing it in the 70s and in 1984 it was officially adopted by Congress.
Let’s Create a Better World for Autism!
Until next time,