April is Autism Awareness Month

President Barack Obama issued a White House proclamation recognizing World Autism Awareness Day declaring that “everyone deserves a fair shot at opportunity” and celebrating the work of advocates, professionals, family members, and all who work to build brighter tomorrows alongside those with autism. The President highlighted the signing of the Autism CARES Act, which dedicates $1.3 billion in federal funding for autism over the next five years and the ongoing BRAIN initiative to revolutionize our understanding of conditions like autism and improve the lives of all who live with them.”

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and Autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. It is a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. The characteristic behaviors of autism spectrum disorder may be apparent in infancy (18 to 24 months), but they usually become clearer during early childhood (24 months to 6 years). As part of a well-baby or well-child visit, your child’s doctor should perform a “developmental screening,” asking specific questions about your baby’s progress.

Each child or adult with autism is unique and, so each autism should be tailored to address specific need. Intervention can involve behavioral treatments, medicines or both. Many persons with autism have additional medical conditions such as sleep disturbance, seizures and gastrointestinal distress. Early intensive behavioral involves a child’s entire family, working closely with a team of professionals. As children with autism enter school, they may benefit from targeted social skills training and specialized approaches to teaching. Adolescents with autism can benefit from transition services that promote a successful maturation into independence and employment opportunities of adulthood. Scientific studies have demonstrated that early intensive behavioral intervention improves learning, communication and social skills in young children with autism.

It’s not easy to hear the news that your child has autism, and realize that your life will be utterly different than you had expected it to be. Daily life with a special-needs child presents many unique challenges. There is support out there to help you by providing regular features on topics ranging from how autism affects your family to day-to-day survival strategies. You are never prepared for a diagnosis of autism. It is likely that you will experience a range of emotions. It is painful to love so much, to want something so much, and not quite get it. You want your child to get better so much. Part of moving forward, is dealing with your own needs and emotions along the way.

You can enjoy special moments with both typically developing family members and the family member with autism. Yes, they may be different but both children look forward to spending time with you. Children with autism thrive on routines, so find one thing that you can do together that is structured, even if it is simply going to a park for fifteen minutes. Seek out your own support. If you find yourself having a difficult time accepting and dealing with the fact that your loved one has autism. In this way you can be stronger for them, helping with the many challenges they face.

Celeste Botonakis

On the Nursing Assistant Guides blog, certified medical assistant Celeste Botonakis explores the daily life of a CMA. She'll keep you up-to-date with the latest on what’s happening in the field, and provides tips for those who are interested in becoming a medical or nursing assistant. Celeste has served in the medical field for over six years, and is passionate about helping people. She currently works at CSR Primary Care in Skokie, Illinois. Click here to learn more about Celeste Botonakis and NursingAssistantGuides.com.