Nearly a quarter century ago, the Autism Society launched a nationwide effort to promote autism awareness, inclusion and self-determination for all, and assure that each person with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is provided the opportunity to achieve the highest possible quality of life. This year we want to go beyond simply promoting autism awareness to encouraging friends and collaborators to become partners in movement toward acceptance and appreciation.

Let’s embrace a new perspective. For over 50 years we have worked in communities (both large and small) to ensure our actions, through our services and programming, supported all individuals living with autism. Let’s expand this work to focus on the rest of us – ensuring acceptance and inclusion in schools and communities that results in true appreciation of the unique aspects of all people. We want to get one step closer to a society where those with ASDs are truly valued for their unique talents and gifts.

Join us in celebration for 2017 National Autism Awareness Month! National Autism Awareness Month represents an excellent opportunity to promote autism awareness, autism acceptance and to draw attention to the tens of thousands facing an autism diagnosis each year.

How is it celebrated?Presidential/Congressional declarations

Online events and activities

Local events and activities through affiliates

Partner opportunities

What can I do?Sign up for e-newsletter Autism Matters to continue sharing ideas on how to make a better world for autism here

Share your experience/stories with NAAM or autism with us.

Put on the Puzzle! The Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon is the most recognized symbol of the autism community in the world. Autism prevalence is now one in every 68 children in America. Show your support for people with autism by wearing the Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon – as a pin on your shirt, a magnet on your car, a badge on your blog, or even your Facebook profile picture – and educate folks on the potential of people with autism! To learn more about the Autism Awareness Ribbon, click here. To purchase the Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon for your shirt, car, locker or refrigerator, click here.

Connect with your neighborhood. Many Autism Society local affiliates hold special events in their communities throughout the month of April. But if you can’t find an event that suits you just right, create your own!

Watch a movie. Did you know that something that seems as simple as going to the movies is not an option for many families affected by autism? The Autism Society is working with AMC Theatres to bring special-needs families sensory friendly films every month.

Donate to the Autism Society: Help improve the lives of all impacted by autism with a financial gift to the Autism Society. Every dollar raised by the Autism Society allows us to improve the capabilities and services of our over 100 nationwide affiliates, provide the best national resource database and contact center specializing in autism, and increase public awareness about autism and the day-to-day issues faced by individuals with ASD and their families.

Source: autism-society.org;

There are many non-profit groups with information about autism spectrum disorder, including Autism Speaks (autismspeaks.org), Autism New Jersey (autismnj.org) and autism-society.org. Or go to westmilfordmessenger.com for basic information from Autism New Jersey.

Autism 101

What is autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or autism is a developmental disorder that affects a person’s social communication and interaction. Individuals with ASD also have restricted and repetitive behavior,interests and activities. These characteristics fall across a “spectrum” ranging from mild to severe. While one person may have symptoms that impair his or her ability to perform daily activities, another may have only mildly noticeable differences and have few, if any, functional impairments.

What are some of the first signs of autism?

Many parents first suspect a problem when their child does not reach developmental milestonessuch as speaking their first words or engaging in simple back-and-forth exchanges (waving “bye bye”).A child may be able to complete a jigsaw puzzle with ease, but may not show interest in sharing his or her accomplishment with others. Some children may have no language delays and have sophisticated vocabularies, but have difficulty engaging in play or conversations with others.

How do I know if my child is developing typically?

While there are general trends in how children develop, all children grow and learn differently. Many factors affect a child’s progress toward developmental milestones, and it may be difficult for parents to determine whether their child is on track due to individual differences. If delays are present, early intervention can have a significant and lasting impact. Therefore, it is important to become familiar with child development and discuss any questions with your child’s healthcare providers.

How are ASDs first identified?

Pediatricians are often the first contact when parents become concerned about their child's development. During office visits, the physician may ask questions about the child’s development, and parents often share their concerns at that time.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that pediatricians screen for ASDs during well checks at 18 and 24 months and at any time a parent raises a concern. Pediatricians will ask the parent questions to assess their child's progress toward typical milestones. They may utilize one of the commonly used screening instruments, such as the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) or the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS). Careful consideration of parents' responses on the screening instrument allows the pediatrician to determine if there is cause for concern and referral. If the screening indicates a number of red flags, the pediatrician may recommend that the child participate in a multidisciplinary evaluation. Although the initial screening does not result in a diagnosis, it provides valuable information for the parents so they can begin treatment while waiting for an appointment with a full evaluation team.

What red flags in young children may indicate the presence of an ASD?

According to the Early Identification of Autism Spectrum Disorders: Guidelines for Healthcare Professionals in New Jersey from the Department of Health, Parents or caregivers should be alert to the following red signs:

•No babbling by 12 months

•No pointing or gesturing by 12 months

•No single words by 16 months

•No 2-word phrases by 24 months

•Loss of previously acquired skills, especially language

In addition to the concerns noted above, presence or absence of the following behaviors may be reason for a referral:

•Lack of joint attention (child does not draw other’s attention to objects in the environment)

•Child does not respond to his/her name

•Lack of pretend, imitative and functional play appropriate to developmental age

•Failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental age

•Child does not imitate others’ behaviors

•Child is rigid in routines or has very difficult transitions

•Child engages in repetitive or stereotypical behavior

•Child has unusual responses to sensory stimuli

What do these concerns actually look like?

Difficulty with social interactions

Some individuals with autism do not spontaneously reach out to others to share information or feelings. Some may not seem to notice other people at all, while others strongly desire to interact with others but become overwhelmed in social situations due to deficits in social skills. With effective treatment, many people with autism learn social skills and come to enjoy spending time with others.

Difficulty with communication

Many individuals with autism have delays in or do not develop spoken language. Some may only communicate using single-word utterances or simple sentences. Other speech abnormalities include echolalia (immediate or delayed repeating of information), unconventional word use, and unusual tone, pitch and inflection. Others have complex vocabularies and can speak at length about topics that interest them, but they may have poor conversational skills. They may also have difficulty understanding nonverbal cues such as body language, facial expressions and eye contact.

Individuals with autism who do not develop functional speech can use augmentative means of communication, such as sign language, picture boards and technological devices. Autism-specific apps can help them communicate their needs and feelings and gain independence in their daily activities.

Unusual behaviors

People with autism have restrictive, repetitive behavior, interests and activities. For example, a child with autism may play with only one toy or watch the same video repeatedly. They may engage in peculiar, sustained play activities such as spinning the wheels of a toy car instead of pretending to drive it, or dangling an object in front of their eyes for long periods of time. Others may focus intensely on a particular topic, such as dinosaurs or vacuum cleaners, to the exclusion of any other interests. Individuals with autism can be very reliant on specific routines and resistant to changes. Even a minor change in their routine or environment could be a great upset to a child or adult with autism.

autismnj.org