HUNTINGTON, WV (WOAY) – Autism Awareness Month marks a time to accept people with autism as members of the community.
Autism Awareness Month used to be solely about bring attention to the disorder. Now that more people understand what the disorder is and how it affects people, members of the autism community now want the month to be one that marks a time of acceptance.
Dr. Mark Ellison, the executive director of the West Virginia Autism Training Center at Marshall University, says that people with autism want to be accepted into the community like everyone else.
“And what I think you’ll recognize is that folks with autism can participate in lots of activities of life, just like anyone else,” he said.
Years ago, autism was a rare mental disorder diagnosed in just one out of every 2000 children. But that wasn’t actually because it was rare, it was just hard to look for.
Since then, the disorder has been researched thoroughly and it’s less likely that kids go undiagnosed. Now, it’s known that Autism affects many more children.
“But now the prevalence is one in every 54 children. So most people I know know someone or live with someone who has autism.”
Still, many kids without access to mental healthcare often go undiagnosed. Part of the reason why it’s so hard to find sometimes is because it affects everyone differently.
“Autism just isn’t this stereotype. Individuals experience it in many different ways. It’s a spectrum disorder.”
Autism awareness month also comes at a rough time for the autism community. The pandemic has shifted a lot of people’s routines, which may negatively affect people with autism.
“Kids with autism really feel more comfortable with routine, feel more comfortable with structure. And suddenly a lot of that’s lifted.”
Now more than ever it’s important to recognize that autism is a very common and lifelong disorder. As well, the disorder is plagued with misinformation and conspiracy theories. It’s cause is still mostly unknown and there is no cure. So this April take some extra care to accept people with autism as a part of your community, instead of someone you look at differently.