April is Autism Awareness Month


Dalia Altubuh, Writer, Artist

Out of all things it is dedicated to, one of the things April is most known for is Autism Awareness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that roughly 1 in 59 children has been found to have autism, which is all the more reason for one to understand what autism is. By increasing awareness, there is hope to increase the chances those with autism being included, understood, and acknowledged, and ultimately improve those peoples’ lives.

So, what exactly is autism? Autism (also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder) is a behavioral and developmental disorder. It is present in all ethnic, racial, and economic groups, and it is 4 times more common in boys than it is in girls. People with autism oftentimes have difficulty communicating and interacting with others, limited interests, repetitive behaviors, and other symptoms that can negatively impact various aspects of their lives. Autism is known as a “spectrum disorder” due to the fact that there is a large variation in type and severity of symptoms from person to person. This also includes other complications that were originally seen as something entirely different from autism: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger’s Syndrome.

Senior Cassie Volkin shared that she has a sister with autism. “My sister is 14, but in maturity level she’s closer to 10,” said Cassie Volkin. “She’s very verbal and likes things that other kids her age aren’t interested in, like cars and the horses in Disney Princess movies. She makes boatloads of Powerpoint presentations talking about her interests and telling stories with her favorite characters. She even presented one for a school talent show. She freaks out if we do anything outside of the ‘usual schedule,’ and she’s really hard to argue with. Anything that requires her to change her habits sets her off, and she just starts repeating herself if we try to reason with her. We’ve had to cancel plans more than a few times because of one of her tantrums, usually meaning that someone has to stay home with her while everyone else goes out.”

Autism can be diagnosed as early as two years old, but the average age of diagnosing the disorder is over four. The exact cause of autism is unknown, but scientists believe it is at least partially determined by genetics and environmental factors, likely a combination of the two. It has been determined that some risk factors include having siblings with ASD, having a low birth weight, having older parents, having various genetic conditions (such as Down’s Syndrome or a fragile X chromosome), and the use of prescription drugs, valproic acid, and thalidomide during pregnancy. With autism being a spectrum disorder, there is no overall effective or perfect treatment– different people will display different symptoms and be impacted by autism differently. Medications and therapy are offered to those who have autism in order to treat symptoms, increase their strengths, reduce complications caused by autism, and aid them in living independently.

In fact, there are many that live seeming perfect lives despite the fact.

Cassie Volkin added, “I give her a hard time; she does exercise self control sometimes, but that makes it even more frustrating when she doesn’t. I’m not sure what distinguishes this from a normal sibling relationship, but there you go.”

People make the mistake of underestimating the potential of those with autism. Sure, some people may need support, but they are still just as capable as the rest of us.

One thing many people need to realize is that even when someone has autism, that does not make them any less human. People assume that people who have disorders or mental illnesses can’t do anything with their lives. Though a person may be autistic, they can do things, amazing things; they just need support and help sometimes so they are able to feel more connected to everyone else.” Senior Casey Kula stated.

There are organizations world wide that have come together for the sole purpose of aiding in autism awareness and research. To show your support here at Bob Jones, HOSA is selling puzzle piece pins for a dollar to raise money for autism research, which you can purchase from Mrs. Lawson. For more information, visit the CDC website.