Celebrating Autism Awareness Month

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Celebrating Autism Awareness Month

Photo taken from Pixaby under Creative Commons LLC

Photo taken from Pixaby under Creative Commons LLC

Photo taken from Pixaby under Creative Commons LLC

Sarah Parker, Reporter

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On April 2, of every year, people all around the United States wear blue for Autism Awareness Month. Autism spectrum disorder, more commonly referred to as autism, is a neurological disorder that affects social interaction and development.

Autism affects 1 in 68 children. Boys are nearly five times more likely to have autism than girls with a ratio of 1 in 42 boys as compared to 1 in 189 girls (autismspeaks.org). More often than not, people with autism live their lives according to a strict routine. Those who are diagnosed often have trouble communicating and picking up social cues along with maintaining eye contact.

“One of the hardest parts about caring for someone with autism is the frustrations of being able to communicate a need that they may have,” Mrs. Anne Creekmore, a teacher that works with special needs students, explained. “They have to get that message across, but it is just not getting there. They end up getting frustrated because I do not understand, and I end up becoming worried because they are not able to communicate. It may take us a while, but we will get there. I would not trade this job for anything, though. It is the best job in the world.”

Although there is help provided for those out there with autism, there is no cure for the disorder. Scientists are not entirely sure what causes autism, but research suggests that autism stems from a combination of genetic, non-genetic and environmental influences.

No two people with autism are the same. When it comes to the disorder, there is a spectrum, and anyone can fall on the spectrum. There are those with high functioning autism (HFA) and those more severely affected by it.

Some of those affected by autism are nonverbal, and one third of those who do not speak will remain nonverbal for the rest of their lives (autismspeaks.org). Those with HFA can go on and lead a normal life while others may not even have the ability to do things for themselves. Those that are  nonverbal are more likely to suffer anxiety due to the lack of being able to express themselves.

“I am proud of making it this far and being able to just be happy about who I am,” Cameron Brewer, a senior with autism, said. “I am proud to be autistic and just of not being afraid anymore. I can finally be comfortable with how I am after years of doubting myself.”

A common misconception about people with autism is that they do not experience feelings like a “typical” person. This is not true. It is not that they lack feelings; they simply have a hard time understanding and displaying their feelings.

“They have no perceived notions about anyone,” Creekmore boasted. “They love any and everyone for who they are. I would love to see the world the way they look at it. It is a beautiful world that they see. They have a heart that is bigger than the world. If they would allow themselves to relax and be friendly, they would find out that there is so much more to an autistic person than just the misconception that they are stupid.”

Like any other person, those with autism desire to be loved, but they just are not sure how to approach the desire. Although they struggle to express their emotions, those who are normally around a person with autism will be the first to tell you that autistic people are some of the most loving people you will meet.

“Having a sibling with autism kind of teaches you the real definition of love,” Kendra Curry, a sibling of someone with autism, described. “My brother’s love is unconditional, and it never stops. When I am upset, he comes in my room asking if I am okay or why I am crying. He does not know how to make me feel better, but he tries, and that is the best thing in the world. We have fights just like everyone else, but just like every other sibling, they are just that one person in the world that you kinda just love unconditionally.”

People with autism are known to be very truthful, due to the difficulties they face regarding picking up on social cues and reading emotions. If someone asks them a question, they are going to be completely honest with their answer. They are not going to beat around the bush or worry about hurting someone’s feelings.

Another obstacle for people on the spectrum is a struggle with sensory overload. Dictionary.com defines sensory overload as a condition of receiving too much information or stimulation via visual or audio sources; overstimulation of one or more senses. Due to this, they can often experience stress, anxiety and even physical pain in loud or unfamiliar situations. This can result in withdrawals, challenging behavior or even meltdowns. If someone witnesses a meltdown, one of the first thoughts that come to mind is that they are simply misbehaving, and they should “be handled”, but this is not the case.  

For example, if someone with autism went to a concert, the loud music would be enough to trigger the sensory overload, but on top of that, the crowded venue and lights would just make it worse.

“With this article, I hope that people are able to understand the real definition of autism,” Curry explained. “No, it does not mean they are retarded, no, it does not mean they can not do anything in life and no, they do not need to be hindered.”

While there may only be one month dedicated to those with autism, it affects those who have it, and those who are surrounded by it, daily. Next time you see someone with autism, remember that their autism does not define them, and underneath the autism is someone who wants to be loved and accepted just like everyone else. For more information about the disorder, go to https://www.autismspeaks.org/.