Autism Awareness and Acceptance

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April is Autism Awareness (and Acceptance) Month and in line with S.u.N.’s commitment to educating the community on important health and social issues I wanted to take the opportunity to bring awareness around a disorder that is very personal to my family and I.

In 2003, after the shock of learning that we would welcome a set of twins into our family, my husband and I decided that getting them (and ME!) through potty training would be the most challenging experience in raising our three children. When we learned nearly 3 years later that our son was on the autism spectrum, we realized that our journey had only just begun.

I first sensed that something wasn’t quite right when his twin sister became more verbal and expressive with words, but our son had yet to say “Mama”. When we met with a specialist at 12 months to express our concerns, he simply said my son’s speech was delayed and not to compare the twins so much. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right, however, and decided to monitor him closely for a few more months and have him evaluated again. Our oldest daughter had a speech delay that we caught early and for whom proper intervention produced a girl (now teenager) who is difficult to get quiet! ☺ I thought at the very least that our son should begin speech therapy to enable him the same early intervention that had been so successful for our daughter. We then began to notice that our son had difficulty playing with others (even his siblings, my husband and I) and had difficulty when exposed to certain kinds of light and loud sounds. He became extremely upset when his routine was changed without warning, even slightly or his things were moved from the place where he expected to find them. We also noticed that he would rock and hold his ears whenever he felt anxious or uncomfortable. We made note of these things and continued to look for answers.

To make a very long and challenging story short, it wasn’t until our son was nearly three that we confirmed that he is on the autism spectrum. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention around 1 in 88 American children are on the autism spectrum (a ten-fold increase in 40 years), and we were lucky enough to have one! ☺ We have discovered many amazing talents within him that have helped to not only teach us the power of the human spirit, but also the importance of patience and persistence in achieving goals in our own lives.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reports that the hallmark feature of ASD is impaired social interaction. Delay or impairment in communication is also typically present. As early as infancy, a baby with ASD may be unresponsive to people or focus intently on one item to the exclusion of others for long periods of time. A child with an autism spectrum disorder might also:
• have trouble learning the meaning of words
• do the same thing over and over, like saying the same word
• move his or her arms or body in a repetitive way
• have trouble adjusting to changes (like trying new foods, having a substitute teacher, or having toys moved from their usual places)

Being aware of the signs and remaining open to discussing concerns and with your pediatrician is vitally important to provide the earliest intervention and best possible outcome.It certainly has been for us! ☺

Mentor Acuminous Watanabe ❤

For more information on Autism Spectrum Disorder, visit

Autism Society of America – http://www.autism-society.org/
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association -http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/Autism.htm
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke – http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/autism/detail_autism.htm
Kids Health http://kidshealth.org/kid/health_problems/brain/autism.html

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