April works full time in higher education balancing her time between her special needs son, handsome husband, elderly mother, and new baby coming in May 2014. She has a background in theatre, film, and television but somehow stumbled into the educational field. She loves spending time with her family, dreaming of the beach and organizing her house.

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Spotlight on Autism Awareness Month

This month Autism is thrown into the spotlight and hopefully people will become educated on who the faces of Autism can be and what the different shades of Autism are along the spectrum.  Autism is found in several generations of my husband’s family and we were concerned that our son was following that path.  For those of you who already know if your child is autistic, a family member is autistic or you want to learn more about Autism, here is a basic overview of what autism is and various support agencies that offer resources and information if you need it or if you wish to volunteer.

The actual official definition of Autism is being looked at to be changed and it does affect how insurance companies cover various therapies, doctors and procedures.  The definition may be narrowed instead of widened to now discriminate against children that would have been covered previously but still need those services.  For example:  Our son needs speech therapy but our insurance will not cover it unless he is severely compromised in eating.  Eating is just a component of speech, but the speech therapy that addressed his particular speech issues is not covered.  This is a major issue that we have to address as a family since we cannot afford to pay full price for speech therapy.

Mayo Clinic  and Autism Speaks have excellent detailed definitions of Autism. It covers things I won’t be able to cover here, so check out their full definition.  The three things that affect children who are autistic are social interaction, speech and language.   Diagnosis of autistic children is beginning earlier and earlier now that more people are aware of early childhood education.  Our son was referred to the state early prevention department before he was 2 years old.  Tests followed and specialists were visited.  Awareness of Autism is increasing when more parents are noticing if their child is not progressing in the same manner as most kids. Although some kids are slower than others, there are tremendous differences in children that are autistic.

Autism is not a death sentence or a life sentence anymore.  Children who are autistic can often go on and lead productive lives.  My sister-n-law is autistic and she is very capable of taking a bus by herself, working at a grocery store, and interacting with people.  It’s not always easy for her and thankfully she has a job coach that can help walk her through some of the challenges in dealing with people on a day to day basis.  However, she has support and not all people with autism are supported in the manner she has been throughout her life.

The Autism Spectrum is wide and varied.  When you hear someone talk about having a child on the spectrum, it could mean almost anything.  The child could possibly have Asperger’s Syndrome and struggles interacting with other children.  There are such a wide range of possibilities that could show up as you work with your child.

There has not been any confirmed link to vaccines and autism.  There is a lot of misinformation out there including celebrities who claim that their child was cured, but there is no concrete evidence that you can cure a child with autism.  Usually a “cure” is due to other issues that were never diagnosed that cleared when various foods or therapies have been employed.  Do your homework and pay attention to your child.  Your child is unique and has unique issues that you as their parent can usually only see.  Find a doctor that you trust and understands you and your child.

Here is a limited list of agencies and support groups for families and autistic children.

Autism Speaks – This is a great resource for families and doctors.  They follow up on current research, policy and give support to families.

Autism Society of America -This is another great resource for families and people who have autism.  It gives you a lot of great information.

Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership -This is a great resource geared more for Aspberger’s but it also gives relevant information for families dealing with buraucracy in their own state.

Easter Seals -This is one of the original groups dedicated to helping families and those with disabilities.  This should be one of your first places to start research as their organization has been doing this for quite some time.

This is just a very small list of those organizations that can help you, give information to the general public and allow you to give back.  Hopefully, this will help you begin the journey to understanding Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders.

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