Clinically reviewed by Claire Ellis, M.S., BCBA, LBA, National Director of Training & Development.
Every April, people across the world recognize Autism Awareness Month, whether in support of a loved one, son, daughter, neighbor, friend or co-worker.
This month, and always, Acorn Health is focused on the three A’s:
Today, there are more than 7 million autistic Americans. By choosing acceptance, awareness and advocacy, we can all do more to champion neurodiversity and make our world a more understanding place for all.
What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
As communities come together this month to bring awareness and acceptance around autism spectrum disorder, it’s important to reflect on what this condition means. While there is no single cause of autism identified yet, we do know that it is a spectrum condition that affects people in varying degrees. It is a neurological and developmental disorder that causes social, communication, and other behavioral challenges.
There has been tremendous progress in identifying autism in individuals earlier, creating the possibility for children with autism to receive the services and support as early as possible. While the average age of diagnosis is 6 years old, the AAP recommends children are screened for autism spectrum disorder between 18 months and 2 years old.
What Is Autism Awareness Month?
There are many ways to demonstrate your support of autism awareness, acceptance, and advocacy during April, and throughout the year. Autism Awareness Month begins with the United Nations sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2. The first awareness day was created in the 1970s by the Autism Society and it has evolved over time, officially being adopted by Congress in 1984.
Throughout the month of April, look for local sensory friendly events that welcome members of the autism community and their families. Autism Awareness Month is also recognized through fundraisers, events and celebrations. Many of these events focus on sharing stories and providing meaningful outlets for those with autism, creating greater awareness, and encouraging everyone to be more inclusive in everyday life. All communities are encouraged to partake; whether you have a loved one with autism, you have autism, or you want to join in celebrating a diverse community.
Acceptance is another valuable word used to recognize individuals with autism in April. What this means is that together, we accept and value neurodiversity. By choosing to embrace individuals with autism the way they are, with unique challenges and gifts, we can make the world a safer and more inclusive place for all.
This month, we challenge people to find ways to advocate for the autism community. They deserve friends, colleagues and family members that stick up for them in difficult situations, seek out resources in everyday lives, and challenge lawmakers to make their lives more conducive to their needs. Consider finding ways to support autism research, such as through fundraisers or by attending events.
Important Autism Statistics
Supporting individuals with autism also means learning more about autism and how it affects people all around you. Here are statistics to help inform on the impacts of autism:
- Over 7 million people in the US are on the autism spectrum
- 1 in 36 children are diagnosed with autism, according to the CDC
- Boys are 4X more likely to be diagnosed as girls
- Autism is 1.9X more likely to be diagnosed in black children than Hispanic children
- 2.2% of adults are autistic
- A child has 19% higher risk of autism if an older sibling has autism as well
- More than a 1/3 of autism caregivers use an ABA therapy provider
- People with intellectual disabilities are 6X more likely to die from COVID-19
Early Intervention Matters
During Autism Awareness Month, it’s a time to learn more surrounding the benefits of early and proper intervention programs, which have the power to alter the course for children with ASD. The reason that early intervention is so important is due to neuroplasticity, which generally refers to how someone’s brain can adapt and learn due to experience. During early toddler years, the brain is creating new neural pathways all the time, making the capacity to learn and change behavior more possible. The older they get, the harder it can be to make progress. Early intervention makes it possible for children with ASD to potentially achieve the same levels of progress in school as their age-appropriate peers. Many children are able to stay on course or even ahead in traditional school settings when they receive early intervention that addresses their social, communication or other developmental concerns they may have.
What Are the Average Costs of Autism Care?
As with most aspects regarding autism care, covering the costs of therapy and other treatments has come a long way. The CDC reports that most parents need anywhere from $17,000 to $21,000 per year for costs relating to medical care and therapy for their child with autism.
There have been many recent developments for covering these costs of care. Some states now mandate that insurance companies cover the costs of autism treatment. Also, the cost of intervention is typically covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Families can find support to cover these costs through a variety of funding methods including private insurance, state-funded care and school-funded care.
Co-Occuring Conditions with Autism
It’s extremely common for a child with autism to experience another condition. Most commonly, research has found that as many as 84% of children with ASD also have anxiety. More than half of all children with autism experience ADHD. Additionally, many children with autism experience weight, sleep and GI challenges. Specifically, literature has shown that 47% of adults who experience autism also have gastrointestinal symptoms. Another common co-occuring experience is that 90% of individuals also have atypical sensory experiences.
This research further illustrates the complexity of an individual with ASD. They may face other challenges outside of their ASD relating to these co-morbidities. This demonstrates the importance of a care team that works together across specialties so that all aspects of an individual’s physical and mental health are addressed in therapy.
Autism Awareness Month Resources
Are you looking to learn more about how to help an individual in your life who experiences autism? Here are several helpful resources that provide trusted information about signs of autism, local resources, therapy recommendations, ways you can advocate for those in your life with autism, and much more:
Autism Parenting Magazine
American Academy of Adolescent and Child Psychiatry
American Academy of Pediatrics
The Autism Society
Resource Database from The Autism Society
Contact Acorn Health
This Autism Awareness Month Acorn Health is proud to be a partner with families across the country in helping individuals who experience autism reach their fullest potential. If you have questions about ABA therapy, or would like to request a free consultation for your child, call 844-244-1818.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I support Autism Awareness Month?
Anyone can support Autism Awareness Month. From volunteering with autism organizations to attending awareness events, there are many ways to get involved each April.
When was the first Autism Awareness Month?
April of 1970 saw the first National Autism Awareness Month.
How can employers support individuals with autism in the workplace
Employers can assist their employees with autism by providing certain accommodations that fit their individual needs. This includes a quieter workspace, more flexible scheduling, and ample ways to communication tasks and goals.
Does Autism Awareness Month include awareness for Asperger's syndrome?
Yes, autism is a complex brain disorder that comes in many forms, one of them being Asperger's Syndrome. This is a developmental disorder that comes in the form of specific learning difficulties.