Autism Awareness Month

Autism Awareness

“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.”

-Albert Einstein

Since the 1970s, April has been recognized as Autism Awareness Month. Autism is a developmental disability that affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. There is no known single cause for autism and no known cure. “In March 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued their ADDM autism prevalence report. The report concluded that the prevalence of autism had risen to 1 in every 88 births in the United States and almost 1 in 54 boys.” (http://www.autism-society.org/about-autism)There are varying degrees of Autism and many different ways that behaviors can be presented.

As educators and school counselors, it is imperative that we stay current on research, new advances, and interventions for our students living with Autism. Below are three ideas that may help you to understand and advocate for a student in your classroom or life:

  1. Students living with Autism rarely understand sarcasm or idioms. Reno Williams, a  young man living with autism wrote in his book, Reno’s World, “I guess for my age I am kind of short and everybody always asks me, ‘When are you going to get some meat on you?’ What? Get some meat on me? Are they crazy? Why would someone want me to have meat on me? All I could see is me with a huge steak hanging from my neck. I had no idea why someone would say that to me.”It’s important that when working with students with autism that we use concrete and literal language.
  2. Routine and sticking to your word is imperative. For students living with Autism, routine can help them get through a day. Unexpected events or interruptions can be overwhelming. As much as possible, teachers should establish a route and stick to it. While some things are out of our control, when situations do go awry, let the student know it will be ok and talk them through what they might expect may happen next.
  3. Teach others about common behaviors of autism. Behaviors that may be seen include: flapping of their arms, jumping up and down, making loud or silly sounds, and yelling or getting upset at certain things. Educate students that this is the way that a student with Autism may react to discomfort. Stay calm, don’t laugh, or make fun of the student, but instead be a real friend!

For more information or to get involved, please visit http://www.autism-society.org/ or http://www.autismspeaks.org/.


Anne FlennerAnne Flenner, School Counselor, has worked to meet the academic, social, personal, and professional needs of FLVS students since 2011. Previously a school counselor in Alachua County, she has received several awards and serves on multiple state counseling boards and committees. She has a Master's degree in Counselor Education from UF. Anne loves working with student athletes, supporting college and career readiness, and focusing on student mental health and wellness.



2 comments on “Autism Awareness Month

  1. Jennifer Whiting

    The last comment is so critical. As a parent of a child with autism-like symptoms, I can so easily see what children have been taught about people with disabilities and when their parents have not taken the time to give this experience to their children. The best experiences are when children take her hand, pull her over and find little ways to include her in their play or discussions. Magic happens then. My daughter is very social, and wants to be friends, it just takes a little more effort on the part of the other child.

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  2. Linda M.

    Autism is “spectrum disorder”. That means that while there are core behaviors they may present themselves to different degrees from one person to the next. While the symptoms listed above might be true for many kids with full autism, they are certainly not true to all, or possibly, most, on the spectrum. I would bet that every person reading this article, for example, knows someone who has Asperger’s (commonly referred to as “high functioning autism”), but I doubt if they exhibit a single one of the symptoms listed above. Kids with Asperger’s are usually very smart, but socially they need a lot of help and understanding. Have you ever known someone who tends to be a bit obsessive about things? Who doesn’t understand ‘personal space’? Who has NO tact and blurts things out inappropriately? Who doesn’t take a hint or pick up on non-verbal clues? (Or even verbal clues)? Who just doesn’t seem to have ANY common sense? Who can do calculus, but can’t match their own socks? They might well have Asperger’s. Kids with Asperger’s often realize they don’t fit in socially, but don’t know how to fix it. They just don’t pick up on things like everybody else seems to, but need step-by-step instructions for even the most simple of social situations. Imagine if, when you spoke no-one around you seemed to understand you. You desperately want to join in, but every time you open your mouth people laugh at you or tell you you’re stupid. If only they would understand that you want to fit in, but you just don’t know how.

    All too often kids with Asperger’s are bullied in school because of their differences and because of their social challenges. FLVS gives them an opportunity to give free reign to their ‘smarts’, while providing a safer and more structured social environment. Everybody wants to be accepted for who they are and FLVS is a unique and desperately needed opportunity for kids on the autism spectrum to be themselves and to finally, for once in their lives, actually fit in somewhere.

    Education is about WAY more than academics. I would encourage FLVS to offer training to its staff on how to recognize Asperger’s and how to best encourage and help students on the autism spectrum. I would encourage students to read up on Asperger’s (it wouldn’t take more than a few minutes) because the power to make a difference in someone else’s life is yours for the taking.

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