Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Autism Spectrum Disorder, a Rainbow of Ability and Disability

April, The Whole Month is Dedicated to Autism Awareness! Let's Review What We Know!

April from the 1st right through to the 30th is National Autism Awareness Month in Canada and the United States.  People are asked to learn more, and help Light up the World with the color Blue in Honor of Autism Awareness.
Autism Speaks for many people who are afflicted with this disorder.  There are an estimated 1 in 68 children will fall somewhere under the Autism Spectrum according to the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention.  "We" have become much better at recognizing the symptoms of Autism and because we are better at the recognition, the numbers seem to have jumped in the last few years.

The Symbol for Autism Awareness

Autism puzzle piece
Autism Awareness often is Symbolized by a Multicolored Puzzle Piece.

I won't go into a whole discussion on whether it's a good symbol or not, but personally feel that it fits the "disorder" quite well.  It is a puzzling disorder, that does not have a "set" standard of qualifying attributes like other diseases.  Childhood diabetes and/or chicken pox have a "set" bunch of attributes that makes them much easier to diagnose.

Autism does not Play by these Rules

Autism by its very nature has many different facets and degrees of severity and no one knows for sure what causes this disorder to begin with.
It is a disease that is more prevalent in Boys.  It is estimated that one in 42 boys are afflicted to one in 189 girls.  These are just estimates, and there is no way of knowing the exact numbers.  Suffice it to say that the CDC estimates that 1.2 million US children are afflicted in some way.

Autism puzzle ribbon
The Puzzle Piece Ribbon is also used for Autism Awareness

Why is Autism such a puzzle?

 All people who have autism are not the same.  People with autism are stereotyped as either: 1. having special abilities or 2. mentally challenged.  There are a whole bunch that fall into neither of these categories. That is how varied Autism can be.  Each diagnosis is unique to each child, with varying degrees of ability/disability.

We have seen the amazing abilities in some autistic individuals who can either draw or figure out complicated mathematical problems, to those who can play an instrument with ease and dexterity and at the same time, they have difficulty with eye contact, or speaking or simple tasks.  That is how varied Autism can be. Check out the link below, and you will get just a little glimpse into a family with a child diagnosed with Autism.  It truly is an amazing story.
What Autism Can Look Like.....

Autism is NOT a mental health disorder. Autism is a Neurological Disorder marked by abnormalities in the brain.  Research is pointing to a disorder in the Genetic makeup of a person.  It is in their DNA.  Some research in Canada has pointed to a single protein that is lacking in the brain, for being responsible for over 1/3 of the autism cases. Research continues in this whole area, as there are many avenues that are being researched with different types of Autism.

What Can You Do to Help?

First of all, if you know someone who has a child with Autism, be a friend.  Learn about the disorder and how you can help them with their child (ren).  Early diagnosis of children who are "different" could be the answer to making their "differences" easier to cope with.  Noticing that your friends are struggling with a new baby, might give them clues as to what is happening with their child.  Outside eyes sometimes see things that a parent may not understand. Encourage your friends to get medical help if you suspect that there might be some abnormalities in a child.  Then be there to help, console, encourage and possibly even help the parents adjust to their new situation.

Many children with Autism are encouraged with toys that help them develop their sensory systems.  These are toys that are colorful, have motion, encourage movement, or use up excess energy that is sometimes a symptom of Autism.  I have put together some possible types of toys for youngsters with Autism would benefit from and that even non-autistic children would enjoy.

What makes toys for an Autistic child different are the colors, shapes and tactile nature of the toys. Many will have different shapes or nubs and hairs even. Many autistic children are non-verbal so they will gravitate to colors, shapes, and sensations that are felt through their hands or seen through their eyes. These toys are recommended by therapists and teachers for children with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and ASD(Autism Spectrum Disorder). It helps them to develop their fine motor skills. Children with these disorders are sometimes lacking in these fine motor skills. They can appear clumsy, so tactile toys help them develop their sense of touch. Some of these toys are also used to relax the mind and fingers of youngsters. It can be a mindless movement of the fingers that in effect relaxes the whole person. Relaxing beads of water cascade gently through some of the tubes. Colors move and swirl, giving the child a sense of wonder as movement is added by their own hand. JellyBeadz Waterbeads grow when added to water for a sensory explosion. A great addition to any hide and seek,  type of game too. Colorful and fun for the child who needs that sensory boost. Sometimes children with Autism need a way to curb their high anxiety levels.  Stretching and pulling these strings can be the answer.  They can be knotted up and unraveled as need or want may be. Any or all of these toys are very affordable and will encourage all children to play in a way that will engage more than their eyes.  Sensory toys are great for Autistic children but loved by all children and even adults too.

What else can you do?

There are many organizations that are involved in raising funds for Autism and Autism Awareness.  You can get involved in a small way or a large way as your time and efforts allow.  I like this Link as it will help you start your own investigation into this Disorder and how to help!  Autism Speaks is dedicated to promoting solutions for families and children.  You can find a local chapter to get involved with if you should so choose. As a grandparent of a child that has been diagnosed with ADHD ( one part of ASD umbrella) disorder, I am very encouraged by all I have read and learned so far.  There is much more to learn and I won't stop, come join me on this journey. 
Autism Speaks (just in case you missed it earlier) is the link.....Check it out for yourself.

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


  1. I think each of us, at one time or another, have known a friend or family member with an autistic child. It's good to know that a whole month has now been devoted to autism. Awareness is a key factor in understanding and helping with any disorder. Thank you for bringing this to our attention, Olivia.

    1. It is my pleasure Miss Elf. It is a cause that is close to my heart. I have family that is also involved with teaching children with special needs and I applaud the work that they do.

  2. My sister was Autistic in the same way Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man was. She had amazing musical abilities. Sadly she died young, at age 28. I still miss her. She was gentle and kind. It's a horrible condition for a family to have to deal with. It's good that there is more awareness now.

    1. My oldest son has ADHD too. It was severe when he was younger, but he has coped rather well as an adult. So it can be managed.

    2. Thank you Heather for sharing your sister with us (May She RIP). Many of these disorders were not understood years ago and the knowledge about the disorder and how to help these youngsters has come a long way. All children should be given the opportunity to have coping mechanisms for their own personal disorders. Early detection and giving parents knowledge and avenues to help their children have come a long way. Every disorder if managed well and understood by parents, caregivers, educators and the general public would go a long way to make these individuals so much more comfortable in their surrroundings.

  3. It seems that over just the last several years autism has become a topic of discussion rather than the totally confusing syndrome that it used to be. Of course there's still a lot to learn, but I'm happy to know that families dealing with ADHD and other versions of autism now have so much support. I wish you much success with your grandchild who's been diagnosed with ADHD.

    1. Thank you Susan. I think part of the knowledge that we are uncovering is that these individuals are not necessarily "handicapped" but rather they are gifted in ways that we don't quite understand sometimes. It's not always the case, but many really are quite happy in their own world, it is we who have to learn that it's okay for them to be the way they are. We need acceptance and learning how to help them at the same time.

  4. Olivia Thank you for a wonderful article. I have a granddaughter that is on the spectrum with high functioning autism. She is also the granddaughter that had a liver transplant at 5 months, I do think that helped her to be diagnosed early and she she was seen by therapists at a very early age. She is now in 2nd grade and is in regular school for most of her day. She is very gifted in some areas and becomes very focused on different areas. Like you said in an earlier response she is quite happy playing by herself and acceptance is what she needs most. Again, thanks for your article and the awareness it brings to the subject.

    1. You are so welcome Mary Beth. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said early diagnosis is key. I'm so happy for you that she is a high functioning autistic child. What I didn't go into in this article, is that there are many who are NOT high functioning. I have a good friend who has 2 boys, both autistic one higher funtioning than the other, but both really challenging. It can be very hard as a parent to have special needs children and empathy from those of us who don't have to cope with "behavioural" issues makes their lives a little easier. Maybe a topic for another day. Right now, it's important to get the awareness out there.

  5. I have a friend whose child died as a preteen because of many birth defects. One of them was a form of autism, but that was only a side issue, since she had no gut and had to be feed through a tube. She could walk, but she was also blind. She couldn't talk, but she responded well to music and moved to it.

    1. Oh Barbara, that is so sad, but, it is a reality. Many children have more than one issue and autism may be just a small part of their difficulties. Hopefully her short life was full of music that moved her. May she Rest In Peace. <3


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