Autism Awareness Month
“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.”
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!