There are families across the country who personally inspire us because of their dedication and patience. The goal of this month is to educate the public and build awareness around autism spectrum disorders, and the difficulties and challenges that children with autism face. The official imagery has since come to be a puzzle piece. The idea behind the puzzle pieces is to represent the complexity of autism spectrum disorders, and also, as every puzzle piece is different in some way, they represent the diversity of every individual affected by autism. Lastly, the bright colors of the ribbon signify hope – hope that through increased awareness, early intervention and appropriate treatments, all people with autism will be able to lead happier, fuller, more complete lives and improve their daily living skills. In addition to the puzzle piece, the official color for National Autism Awareness Month is a bright royal blue.
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. We now know that there is not one autism but many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences.
The term “spectrum” reflects the wide variation in challenges and strengths possessed by each person with autism.
Autism’s most-obvious signs tend to appear between 2 and 3 years of age. In some cases, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Some developmental delays associated with autism can be identified and addressed even earlier. Autism Speaks urges parents with concerns to seek evaluation without delay, as early intervention can improve outcomes.
Some facts about autism
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates autism’s prevalence as 1 in 68 children in the United States. This includes 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls.
- An estimated 50,000 teens with autism become adults – and lose school-based autism services – each year.
- Around one third of people with autism remain nonverbal.
- Around one third of people with autism have an intellectual disability.
- Certain medical and mental health issues frequently accompany autism. They include gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures, sleep disturbances, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety and phobias.