HKQ Kids

Autism Awareness

Since 2008, April 2nd has been recognized as World Autism Awareness Day. The day is meant to encourage both organizations and individuals to research and become more accepting and understanding of autism; discussing it with your children will also help them become more aware.

According to the CDC, about 1.5% of children in developed nations have been diagnosed with autism as of 2017. It’s not completely clear what causes autism, but most research leans towards genetic factors. Even then, nothing is certain regarding exactly how and why some children are born with autism. Autism is also up to five times more common in boys than girls, and it’s often detected by age 3, though it can be detected in children younger than 18 months. But what exactly is autism?

You may have heard of the term “the spectrum” used when talking about autism. This refers to a range of developmental disorders, which autism is one of. It also includes conditions like Asperger syndrome, which is a less severe disorder on the spectrum. So, you should know that not every person with autism is the same: some people are unable to verbally communicate or take care of themselves, and for others, their condition may not even be readily noticeable.

Autism can be understood as a difference in how a person communicates and deals with social situations. Additionally, a person with autism often has a heightened or lowered sensitivity to certain outside factors. For example, a person with autism may be extra sensitive to crowded places, loud noises and/or bright lights. You may have heard of “Autism friendly” events: this means that special care is being taken to provide an environment that allows kids with autism to enjoy something like a play or movie without experiencing the stress that may come with that kind of occasion.

You should also know that not all parents with autistic children feel the same about how autism should be viewed. Some people want nothing more than a cure, while others express no want or need for a cure at all. Understand that taking care of a child with autism can sometimes be more emotionally taxing than usual. However, these parents love their kids just the same, and we should all be able to agree that children with autism deserve the same compassion and respect as anyone else. If your child has a classmate or peer who is autistic, take the time to talk about these points with him/her:

1. Explain that someone with autism simply has a brain that works differently.

2. It can help to draw comparisons. Remind your child that there are some things that come easily to them, and how some things are more difficult. Explain that someone with autism is just the same: there are things they have trouble with, but they may be able to do other things more easily than your child can.

3. If you need some help when talking about autism, there are plenty of TV shows and videos that are specifically made to explain autism to children. Sesame Street, for example, has had several segments which talk about autism that can be found on YouTube.

4. This is a universal rule but remind your child that no one should be teased or excluded for something they have no control over. The golden rule always works: you shouldn’t treat someone in a way you wouldn’t want to be treated yourself.

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