This April marks the 52nd celebration of Autism Awareness Month. Used as a time to celebrate the differing achievements of autistic people, it also helps bring much needed attention to the challenges that autistic people and their loved ones face on a daily basis.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that effects about 3.5 million Americans. Although ASD is defined by a certain set of behaviors, it is also classified as a “spectrum” disorder – meaning that it effects every individual differently and to varying degrees. There is no known cause of Autism, however, there are identifiable behaviors (relating to communication difficulties, social and behavioral challenges, and repetitive actions) that can be monitored to determine if a young child has autism.

According to the CDC, about 1 in every 68 children in the U.S. have been identified as part of the autism spectrum – ranging from mild speech and language difficulties to nonverbal communication; or mild sensory challenges (like being overwhelmed by touch and smell) to aggressive physical behavior that might include tendencies toward self-harm. Although the disease has been reported across all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups, many early studies of autism only used boys as subjects leading to misinformation about how autism effects girls as well as a pervading myth that the disease is 4.5 times more likely in boys.

People with autism experience more prejudice and risk than their neuro-typical friends and family members. Children with autism run away at higher rates and are more susceptible to in-school punishment, bullying and sexual harassment. However, because autism has been given more attention in the last decade, organizations and governmental agencies have taken on the challenge of providing safe infrastructures for all kinds of differently-abled people. The CDC has recently launched The Study to Explore Early Development (SEED), which is the United States’ largest study committed to identifying factors that might put children at risk for autism. The advances made in studying this disease have already led to earlier diagnosis in children, helping them make more dramatic developmental gains throughout their life.

Please click here for more information on the JCS’s in-house Adult Training for Developmentally Disabled persons or Help Me Grow, an Infant and Early Childhood Assessment and Counseling program for families who may need to evaluate children to identify special needs.