Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Autism Awareness Month: Learning more about a complex condition

You probably know someone with autism—in your neighborhood, in your workplace, in your school, in your family.   In fact, an estimated one in 68 children in the U.S. has been identified with autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   The data on adults is less clear, but the numbers are growing. 

April is Autism Awareness Month – a chance to raise awareness and learn a little more about this complex condition affecting so many.  Here are just a few sources that might help answer some questions.
Want a good quick overview of what autism is?  Check out the CDC’s main autism page.

Looking for a good app to help someone with autism function better?  There are many apps available to help people with autism with communication, behavior, organization, creative arts, and more. In fact, there are so many apps that it can be hard to know where to start or what might be useful for a particular person. Check out Autism Speaks’ searchable resource on autism apps – with information on function, device, target age, and the research data that’s been gathered to evaluate or inform the app.

 One resource you may be familiar with already is Siri, the personal assistant on the iPhone. See a New York Times column by a mom of a child with autism who has made good use of Siri, “To Siri, With Love: How One Boy With Autism Became BFF With Apple’s Siri.”  Siri is not only tirelessly patient in responding to repetitive questions (common among some with autism) but lets you know she doesn't understand (leading to practice with phrasing and enunciation) and will gently encourage polite language.

Want to know how to talk with parents of children with autism?  See a recent article on “11 things never to say to parents of a child with autism (and 11 you should).”
Want to know a little about what it’s like for some people with autism and sensory sensitivity issues to experience their environment? (Note of caution:  Every person with autism is different. No two experience sensory sensitivity in the same way.) View the short video from the UK-based National Autistic Society, Experience For 60 Seconds How The World Looks, Sounds, And Feels To Someone Who Has Autism.” Some people with autism have difficulty processing multiple sensory experiences at once. An animated video by the Interacting with Autism project gives a glimpse into sensory overload and how sensory experiences intertwine in everyday life.

Want to know more about the latest research on autism spectrum disorders or the latest clinical trials? Find out how your family can participate in research  or find out about clinical trials.

Have more questions? Visit national organizations, such as Autism Speaks and the Autism Society of America, or federal agencies, including the CDC and the National Institute of Mental Health.  Join the conversation #autismawareness, #autism, #mentalhealth.

by Deborah Cohen, senior writer, American Psychiatric Association

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