Many of us know someone with autism, which makes this month and World Autism Day, April 2nd, all the more significant to each one of us. This month is not only about bringing awareness to autism, but it is about helping others to understand how inclusivity matters for those who have been diagnosed with autism.
What is Autism?
According to AutismSociety.org, Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong developmental condition that typically appears during early childhood impacting social skills, verbal and nonverbal communication, relationships, and self-regulation. Autism is not a person but rather a way people with this disorder live and how they function. Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning each person who lives with ASD is affected by it differently.
Autism is not a one size fits all scenario; each person with autism requires a different amount of support in their daily life; some people with autism might need more help while others may require less.
According to CDC.gov, autism can be noticed by a professional as early as 18 months old, but autism is usually present in children by ages 2 or 3. The signs that are most commonly associated with autism are: repetitive behaviors, little to no eye contact, delayed language development, being easily upset by minor changes, difficulty understanding others’ emotions, and showing little to no interest in being around others. These are not all the symptoms associated with autism, and not every person with autism presents all of these characteristics. Even though autism is lifelong, not everyone with autism has a medical diagnosis during childhood, but many people can go undiagnosed up into adulthood. It is crucial; however, the sooner a person with autism is diagnosed, the sooner they can obtain the proper support they may need.
If you have suspicions that you or a loved one may have autism, seek medical guidance from a primary care physician. If you wish to learn more about autism and autism medical diagnoses, you can visit the websites provided:
Living with autism has its challenges, but it is easier when those diagnosed with ASD are surrounded by a supportive community and those who care. World Autism Day is April 2nd, sanctioned by the United Nations in 2007. World Autism Day was a day created to bring awareness to help improve the quality of life of those living with autism; so they too can lead fulfilling and meaningful lives as an integral part of society.
For everyone who wants to know what they can do to show support to those living with autism, treat people living with autism as equals. Those with autism are the same as those living without it; the only difference is their minds process differently. Show you care by taking the time to listen. Be patient and provide meaningful feedback by being non-judgemental, honest, and communicating clearly. Each April communities across America take part in Light it Up Blue, a movement that encourages people to wear blue and turn on blue lights to show their support and awareness toward those with autism. Even though many people with autism find this movement controversial because many people are already aware of autism, you can find more information regarding Light it Up Blue on autismspeaks.org if you wish to participate. You can also take part in showing community support by volunteering for local and national autism societies.
Family and Caregiving Support
For those caring for a loved one with autism, there is a Florida Autism Center here in Lake Nona (located at 10920 Moss Park Rd Suite 130 Orlando, FL 32832). This center provides ABA Therapy. This therapy is controversial within the autism community; however, it is an option to help those diagnosed and struggling with their autism to work on and grow their functioning skills, self-help skills, social interaction, and communication. If you think this is an option best suited for you and your family, please research and consult with a medical professional.
This month not only celebrates the lives of those living with autism but the families and loved ones surrounding them. Being diagnosed with autism is not only life-altering for that specific person but their family as well. It is an adjustment trying to find the right balance for your family; this rewarding adjustment can often be a struggle along the way. If you or a loved one is struggling with adjusting to life with autism there are support groups and guides available that can help navigate how to be supportive and helpful towards someone with autism. You can find support groups at https://www.autismfl.org/support-group and you can find helpful guides at https://www.autismspeaks.org/autism-support-family-help. If you are an adult with autism and are struggling to navigate through your life, visit https://www.autismfl.org/adulthood and https://www.autismspeaks.org/adults-autism for an abundance of resources to help your journey as well.
Autism Inclusion within the Community
Below is a list of certified autism centers in the Central Florida area, along with autism-inclusive locations and activities to do here as well.
Certified Autism Centers:
Autism Inclusive Locations and Activities:
- Theme Parks: Disney, Universal, Legoland, and Seaworld all have accommodations available for families and visitors who may require them and go out of their way for guests to have the best experience possible.
- Movies: Check your local movie theater (AMC, Regal, etc.) for sensory-friendly movies showings. Showings and availability vary by location, but it may be an option near you.
- The Orlando Repertory Theatre provides sensory-friendly performances.
- Chuck E. Cheese hosts sensory-sensitive Sundays at certain locations.
- Visiting the Central Florida Zoo: Families who have loved ones with autism say that this is a great place to visit especially for those with autism.
- WonderWorks hosts sensory days for children and adults; the next event for the Orlando location is Wednesday, April 6 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m at $10 per person.
To learn more about each of these locations and activities, details and more information regarding each item listed will be available on their corresponding web links.