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Autism Awareness Month 2021

Tara Dale, LISW-S
April is Autism Awareness Month, so we wanted to share some guidance for supporting loved ones with Autism and resources for additional guidance for caregivers. Autism (also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder) is a complex developmental disability that can impact social skills, communication skills and present behavioral challenges in an individual. Autism is typically diagnosed in early childhood, in children as early as age 2 although many children are diagnosed after the age of 4. In 2018, the CDC reported that the prevalence of Autism among children in the U.S. was at 1 in 54. Autism is also four times more common in boys than girls.[1] Seeking early interventions and knowing how to best support your child with Autism can positively impact their daily life and help them thrive at home and at school.
A child with Autism might:
  • not look at objects when another person points at them
  • have trouble relating to others or not have an interest in other people at all
  • avoid eye contact and want to be alone
  • have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
  • prefer not to be held or cuddled, or might cuddle only when they want to
  • appear to be unaware when people talk to them, but respond to other sounds
  • be very interested in people, but not know how to talk, play, or relate to them
  • repeat or echo words or phrases said to them, or repeat actions over again
  • have trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions
  • have trouble adapting when a routine changes
  • have unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound [2]
How you can support someone with Autism:
  • Seek medical guidance first if you suspect your child may have Autism. Take some time to learn about Autism yourself and seek resources online and locally to support you and your child.
  • Talk to your child and learn about their interests and dislikes. This will help you to find common likes to strengthen your relationship. If they struggle with verbal communication, learn how they best prefer to communication.
  • Be patient and allow time for responses and reactions to requests and questions. Give options whenever possible to allow choice in how they can respond to your request. Be sure to provide clear and concise directions.
  • Children with autism do well with clarity and structure. Find opportunities to develop a consistent routine and daily structure to build feelings of comfort and security with daily life.
  • Talk to them about situations that make them feel anxious and what helps them to feel safe. Support them by identifying sensory activities and items to help sooth them when feeling overwhelmed. This may look like having a “calming corner” or quiet room in the home that they can go to when they need quiet and space. You can also advocate for spaces like this in their school.
  • Take care of yourself. Schedule time to relax and engage in your interests and hobbies. It’s important to practice self-care so that you can be your best when caring for others.
Additional resources for support and information:
[1] Centers for Disease Control. Data & Statistics on Autism Spectrum Disorder (2020).
[2] Centers for Disease Control. Autism Facts. (2020).
Autism Awareness Month 2021
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