It’s hard to believe, but April has been recognized as Autism Awareness month since 2007. I started writing about it in 2012. That is the year that I began my blog…9 years ago!
As I look back over the years, I think about the enormous changes.
- Thousands more children have been diagnosed as the prevalence is now 1:54. Very different from the 1:10,000 in the 1980’s.
- Because so much publicity has been directed to the signs of autism, parents are often the first to recognize the possible characteristics of autism and consult their physician. This is a very important outcome, as early diagnosis is critical.
- Educational opportunities increased tenfold as many institutions of higher learning began offering special education certification in the field of autism. More qualified teachers allowed schools to expand programs for children with autism.
- We also began to understand fully that autism is a spectrum disorder and that we have children who are on all levels: mild, moderate, and severe. For each, a different level of educational programming is mandated for their free appropriate education.
- The expansion of awareness leading to greater identification of children with autism in the 1990’s resulted in a tsunami of children graduating from high school circa 2015-2018 and in need of further vocational/employment /educational services. Colleges began programs for young adults with autism. Employers became aware of the many talents that persons with autism have to offer. Supported Employment programs and OVR provided job coaches to assist adults in securing and maintaining jobs.
- Last, but not least, additional funding became available on the state and federal level to support children and adults with autism. Certainly, never enough to meet the needs of the autism community, but it was a beginning.
How can you assist during April? Spread the word about Acceptance of children and adults with autism in the schools, jobs, and in society as a whole. At the Barber National Institute, we strive to be part of the fabric of our society and have found Erie to be a welcoming community. That has been because of Acceptance. We have made great strides, but more can be done…. through Acceptance.