Today, April 2nd, is Autism Awareness Day. In fact, all of April is Autism Awareness Month. Some of you may know that before my time here at Woodbury, I was a one-on-one behavioral therapist and I worked with children with autism. These children will always hold a special place in my heart. Every one of my clients had such unique personalities, and I loved every single one of them.

Autism is a “neurological and biological disorder that typically affects children between the ages of 18 months to five years of age. According to the CDC, autism currently affects 1 in every 45 children today (2014, the statistics were 1 on 68, in 2012, it was 1 in 88). It is estimated there are over 1 million people in the United States alone with autism. Autism affects each individual differently and at different levels of severity. Some people with autism are severely affected, cannot speak, require constant one-on-one care, and are never able to live independently. While others who have less severe symptoms, can communicate, and eventually acquire the necessary skills to live on their own” (TACA Now website). Typically, autism affects individuals in five key areas: communication (both verbal and nonverbal), social skills, behaviors, learning, and medical issues.

Working with children with autism has changed my perspective on education all together. It is astounding how varied the symptoms can be from one child to another. While one child may display communication skills both receptive and expressive, he or she may also display behaviors that may cause injury to him/herself or others. Another child may have no self-help skills such as eating, dressing, bathing, or toileting, in addition to repetitive self-stimulatory behaviors such as spinning or obsessively lining up objects. What some people may also not be aware of is that some individuals with autism can blend into their surroundings with their peers and may seemingly display no obvious traits of autism. However, these individuals may have struggles identifying and coping with social cues. The combination possibilities are endless. But no matter what the symptoms are or how severely impacted the child is, any amount of growth, progress, or development is a reason to celebrate.

The video that I’ve included in this post is TACA’s Hope After Diagnosis video (July, 2010). I’ve had the blessed opportunity to work with Lisa and her son Jeff, (who by the way just had his 21st birthday and is a student at Concordia University, is the most endearing and hilarious kid ever, and someone who I will never, ever forget). This video makes me cry every single time I watch it and see Jeff sing. Please watch it whether you know someone with autism or not.

If you have a child with autism, or if you know a family who has an individual with autism, please know that support and services are available! You are not alone. Talk About Curing Autism Now (TACA Now) is an organization that began in the year 2000 in the living room of a mother named Lisa who had a son with autism named Jeff. She wanted to create a support system for families with autism that wasn’t just a monthly meeting of moms crying and complaining about how hard their life was because of their child. Instead, she wanted a support system that was proactive in finding answers to all of the questions linked to autism. TACA began with just a few families meeting together at Lisa’s house. Fast forward to today, TACA serves thousands of families across the United States and has Chapters operating in over 20 states!

Lisa also has a blog called Real Help Now that provides a wealth of information to anyone who is seeking help. And again, if you have a child with autism, or if you know a family who has an individual with autism, please know that support and services are available! Contact TACA Now, and their friendly staff will provide you with the information you need!