Autism Awareness Month, 2019

April is also Autism Awareness Month, which brings attention to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), more commonly known as autism. As of 2018, ASD affects one in 59 births in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The disorder is more common in males than females — one in 54 males are on the autism spectrum.

Symptoms of ASD, which presents itself during the first few years of life, are mostly related to developmental milestones. Individuals on the ASD spectrum often struggle with spoken language, tend to be repetitive in their words and motor movements, and demonstrate a lack of interest in peer-to-peer relationships.

The effects of ASD are all around us. Some of your classmates, coworkers, friends and family may be on the autism spectrum. However, let’s not forget that many people with mental ailments are gifted; many of society’s most prominent and successful people may have been on the spectrum, whether or not people knew it.

As we strive to be an inclusive and accepting society, we should recognize the talents and gifts of those who are on the autism spectrum, and treat them no different than we treat each other. Some with autism excel in math, science and other areas, and also demonstrate great memory capacity, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

On a larger scale, we must all remember that everybody is different — it’s not our ailments that define us, it’s our gifts and our strengths. Autism Awareness Month is the perfect time to realize that goal by telling those on the spectrum that they are just as valid and loved as those of us who are neurotypical.

While publically recognizing ASD is a great start, we must do more to ensure that those on the spectrum are treated with respect and dignity.

~The Suffolk Journal Staff