By Alecia Sexton
April is National Autism Awareness Month and there’s no better time to learn more about this disability. According to austismspeaks.org, autism is defined as a “broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication.” There is often a stigma associated with autism that shines a negative light on the autistic community.
While it’s true that autistic individuals often require additional services such as speech therapy, academic tutoring, and additional experience in visual and performing arts to improve self expression and social skills, autism shouldn’t be seen as a handicap. Some autistic individuals require constant assistance and help while others live completely independently. This proves that the disability presents itself across a spectrum.
Autism often decreases a person’s ability to follow directions, pay attention for long amounts of time, and express emotions, thoughts and ideas. Because of this, many are misdiagnosed as being mentally disabled, which is why autism awareness is so important. Often, individuals in the spectrum have issues comprehending body language, understanding sarcasm, and catching on to social cues. Because of this, making friends proves extra challenging and potentially leads to emotional and social outbursts.
Imagine not being able to read someone’s body language to conclude what they’re thinking or feeling. On top of that, imagine not being able
to express that confusion because your brain is overwhelmed with countless thoughts and emotions at once. This can be extremely frustrating for anyone, leading to anxiousness and anxiety. This
is why it’s important to speak literally, calmly and concisely when interacting with someone on the autistic spectrum and to try different communication techniques to see what works best. This simple adjustment could make a night and day difference in the ability to effectively interact with an individual with autism.
Research has shown that autism is a disorder of the senses in which individuals can either be hypersensitive or desensitized to sensory impulses such as sounds, colors, and textures. This is why some may walk on their toes to decrease the impact of the ground on their feet or may enjoy spinning on a swing as a calming, or “stimming” technique.
There’s a wonderful film titled “Temple Grandin” that tells the real-life story of one woman’s journey living with autism. If you’re interested in learning more about autism through the eyes of someone with the disability, this movie is not only informative, but extremely instrumental in truly understanding it. The film helps shine light on the fact that individuals with autism are “different but not less” and deserve to be heard and understood.