Menstuff® has compiled the following information on Autism.

What it's like to walk down a street when you have autism or an ASD
The world needs all kinds of minds

Autism - What is it?
What it's like to walk down a street when you have autism or an ASD
The New Autism for Boys- Where are the real deficits?

Expected Duration
When To Call A Professional
Autism Today Presents…..Temple By Telephone!
Differences found in autistic brains
Autism Advocacy Month - April


What Is It?

Autism is a type of developmental disability characterized by problems with communication, social interaction and behavior. It is usually first seen in toddlers younger than age 3. Although the cause remains a mystery, some evidence suggests that autism may be genetic (inherited). Other evidence points to infection or perhaps the effects of an environmental toxin (poison). Some doctors believe autism may be the result of a specific brain injury or brain abnormality that occurred during development in the womb or in early infancy. Others have found evidence that the disorder is a result of abnormal levels of neurotransmitters (chemicals that send messages between cells in the brain and nerves), especially the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin.

Autism affects about 1 out of 1000 children, from all racial, ethnic, and social backgrounds. It is 3 to 4 times more prevalent in boys than in girls.


At birth, the autistic child often appears normal. The onset of symptoms may be noticed as early as the first year of life, but it may not be until the child is 2 or 3 years old that the parents realize something is wrong. Infants with autism may display abnormal responses to being touched. Instead of cuddling when they are picked up, they may stiffen or go limp. They also may not show normal developmental behaviors during the first year of life, such as smiling at the sound of their mother's voice, pointing out objects to catch someone's attention, reaching out to others with their hands or attempting one-syllable conversations. The child may not maintain eye contact, may appear unable to distinguish parents from strangers and typically shows little interest in others. Symptoms vary from mild to severe.

Some typical behaviors associated with autism include:

Disordered play — An autistic toddler usually ignores other children and prefers to play alone. The child may spend hours repeatedly laying out objects in lines, sitting silently in an apparent trance-like state, concentrating on only one object or topic (and any attempt to divert the child can provoke an emotional outburst). Also, young children with autism are typically unable to engage in make-believe play.

Disordered speech — An autistic child may speak infrequently or remain totally silent. When the child does speak, the words may be an echo of what another person said. Speech patterns may be different. Instead of saying, "I want a sandwich," the child may ask, "Do you want a sandwich?"

Repetitive behaviors — The autistic child may engage in repetitive behavior such as saying the same phrase over and over again or repeating a particular motion, such as clapping, finger-snapping, rocking, swaying and hand-flapping are also common.

Abnormal behaviors — Children with autism may develop obsessive routines. Some may also become hyperactive, aggressive, destructive or impulsive. Others may intentionally injure themselves.

Unmistakable Signs of Autism in a Young Child

  • Appears aloof; has difficulty interacting with others.
  • Maintains little or no eye contact: resists cuddling or closeness.
  • Cries, shows distress or throws frequent tantrums for no apparent reason
  • Has difficulty expressing needs: has severe language deficits
  • Uses gestures or points instead of using words.
  • Does not respond to normal, interactive language cues
  • Engages in echolalia - repreating words or phrases instead of using normal, responsive language
  • Acts as if deaf, but tests normal in auditory checks
  • Is unresponsive to normal teaching methods
  • Is over-sensitive or undersensitive to pain; has no fear of danger
  • Has an inappropriate attachment to objects
  • Insists on sameness and order
  • Exhibits obvious physical over-activity or inactivity


The diagnosis is made based on your child's developmental history, observations of your child's behavior (alone and with others), and the results of tests that evaluate your child's language skills, motor coordination, hearing, and vision. In some cases, tests will be ordered to rule out other medical conditions that can sometimes look like autism.

What it's like to walk down a street when you have autism or an ASD

This video will give you an idea of what its like to walk down a city/town street when you have autism.

I didn't manage to get the brightness perfect its too bright at the end. the brightness should be more like the start of the autism walk part its seemed to get too bright at the end for some reason.

The first part is a neurotypical walking down a city street then what an autistic or asd person will see and hear when they walk down the same street.

It will hopefully give neurotypicals a rough idea about what it's like to life with autism or an ASD. it impossible to get it perfectly correct but i've tried to recreate the experience as closely as possible. Parts of the video are too bright and parts are about right but i'm not amazing at video editing so i've tried my best with what knowledge i have.

It does vary from person to person with autism but this is a simulation of how I personally experience the world.

The New Autism for Boys- Where are the real deficits?

For some time now in our culture, the words “attention deficit” have been liberally applied to children and most predominantly with boys.

The pharmaceutical industry receives billions in profits from child prescriptions that help “manage,” these deficits and disorders. With that “management”, the incidence seems to still be on the rise.

And now we have an astonishing new study and report that says autism in children and particularly for boys has seen a dramatic rise.

Here’s the latest news from the US government’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention

In the U.S. about 1 in 68 children (or 14.7 per 1,000 8 year olds) were identified with what is now called ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) in 2013 based on data collected on 8-year-old children living in 11 communities. This new estimate is roughly 30% higher than the estimate for 2008 (1 in 88), roughly 60% higher than the estimate for 2006 (1 in 110), and roughly 120% higher than the estimates for 2002 and 2000 (1 in 150).

Boys were almost 5 times more likely to be identified with ASD than girls. About 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls were identified with ASD.

The Center for Disease Control does not know what is causing this increase. They say that some of it may be due to the way children are identified, diagnosed, and served in their local communities, but exactly how much is unknown.

About 80% of children identified with ASD either received special education services for autism at school or had an ASD diagnosis from a clinician. This means that the remaining 20% of children identified with ASD had symptoms of ASD documented in their records, but had not yet been classified as having ASD by a community professional in a school or clinic.

In a recent AP article, investigators have said that autism is now used as a diagnosis for a broader array of learning disorders and conditions than it used to be. And that could be a factor in explaining why autism is exploding along with claims we are getting “better” at diagnosing. As with “attention deficit disorder” or “attention deficit hyperactive disorder,” it seems to me that we may run some risks when we create what some physicians have called “garbage can” diagnoses, or the gathering up of a wider and wider pool of symptom descriptions, trying to fit them into one category, then coming up with a one size fits all treatment model based on the new disease category rather than a full examination of an individual boy’s life.

I’d like to take a look at some of the health and social deficits that are affecting boys, that could be at the root of what at least some if not all of the boys behind the new statistics are actually experiencing.

The Nutrition and Exercise Deficit

Obesity is beginning to drop in all populations with the exception of young boys. Faux food (aka junk food) still on school cafeteria menus and predominant in lower income families with less access to whole healthy foods is a known factor in creating the obesity epidemic. Obesity puts many of the body’s systems on overload and creates systemic inflammation that can affect brain function in the young as well as old. Nutritionally empty calories are more dangerous than formerly thought as they can affect brain chemistry leading to social and behavioral problems.

There is a race to create uniform academic standards everywhere but no physical education standards based on the latest research in exercise physiology that I am aware of, at least not one that has gained national recognition and support.

Nature Deficit

This generation of modern industrial world boys spends the least amount of time outdoors than any other known in history. More is now known about some of the health consequences of Vitamin D3 deficits caused by limited exposure to natural sunlight. We know that kids that play outdoors regularly get more exercise. We also know that regular contact with the outdoors and nature has a powerful affect on our brain chemistry and can boost the immune system.

Father Deficit

Dr. Gregory Ramey, Executive Director of Dayton’s Children’s Pediatric Center for Mental Health Resources tells us that 47 percent of kids report that moms are their most influential relationships, compared to only 20% for dads. This may be due in part to the fact that 75% of single parent homes are headed by moms, so these kids just don’t have much access to dads. Even in two-parent families, children have little routine contact with their fathers. Despite a dramatic change in the last 50 years, moms still spend twice as much time caring for kids than dads. Dads are still somewhat of a mystery for sons and daughters. And kids feel they get in more trouble with dads cast in the disciplinarian role. Even when dads are around, many kids don’t feel connected to them as they don’t seem emotionally available. Children complain about their fathers watching TV, using smart phones or sleeping after a long day at work.

Classroom Deficit

Crowded classrooms still based on the old factory model of education with a lot of seat time and less individualized attention may be at the root of much of what has been diagnosed as “attention deficit” in individual boys. Boys are routinely disciplined more than girls with more attention focused on “bad behavior” and punishment than the fostering of pro-social behaviors. The developmental needs of boys are still poorly understood and addressed in the classroom and on the playground.

So, what can be done to eliminate these deficits and bring our boys back from the brink of these diagnoses, both real and socially constructed?

There is more awareness than ever before about the obesity epidemic with better food available in some chain grocery stores that make available whole healthy real food. Both families and schools are waking up to the vital role nutrition plays in physical and mental health as information is readily available in print and virtually.

Dr. Mark Hyman, MD has clinical experience with eliminating some conditions labeled as autism with non-pharmaceutical as well as non-behavioral management approaches. A pioneer in functional medicine, he and a growing number of physicians are looking to address multiple health and social factors in treating the individual rather than a symptom complex or diagnosis.

Schools with smaller classrooms, state of the art classroom management techniques and refined special education programs that understand and address the whole student stand a better chance of success. Supporting teachers to balance the need for meeting academic standards with the need to address each student on the basis of their passions, interests, cognitive, affective and behavioral skills acquisition is key.

Nationally and internationally implemented programs such as Healthy Play As A Solution and The Passion-Based classroom derived from The Passion Test for Kids and Teens program can help create nurturing and nourishing learning environments that create more safety, joy, student and teacher satisfaction and achievement.

Providing more school counselors and integrated programs that provide students with close case management by teams composed of educators, classified staff and parents could make a real difference and do where put into practice.

Fathers can provide more emotional support when they are not automatically cast as the bad guys. Consequences for kids can be discussed and implemented by both parents. Dads can turn off their electronic devices and go outside to play with their kids as well as reacquaint themselves and their kids with nature, whether it’s the park down the street or further afield. They can ask more questions and get to know their kids while letting their kids get to know them.

Perhaps the word “spectrum” in the newer term Autism Spectrum Disorder can be even more useful in that each individual child or boy needs to be viewed as somewhere on a spectrum, not of disease, but where he can and is moving toward greater health and function through our more careful examination and engagement with a full spectrum of deficits our society has created that undermines the health and well being of our boys. When we take all deficits into account and correct them, our society will be on the road to bringing up healthier boys who can become healthier, more positively engaged and responsible young men.

Links to references:

Center for Disease Control and Prevention:

"Don't be a Distant Dad" Dr. Gregory Ramey, Dayton Children’s Pediatric Center for Mental Health Resources

Mark Hyman, MD (Case studies in his book The UltraMind Solution)

Expected Duration

Autism is a life-long condition.


Since the cause or causes of this disorder remain unknown, there is currently no way to prevent it.


Currently, there is no cure for autistic disorders. However, a child's symptoms may improve after intense treatment involving:

Education — Educators will develop an individualized education program to address the child's specific educational problems. This typically includes speech and language therapy.

Behavioral management — Behavior modification strategies include positive reinforcement (rewarding "good" behavior) and "time-outs." The goal is to enhance appropriate behavior and reduce inappropriate behaviors (such as self-inflicted injuries).

Medications — No single drug has been able to treat all symptoms of autism effectively. In some children, antipsychotic medications (such as thioridazine, chlorpromazine, mesoridazine, haloperidol) may reduce some symptoms associated with autism, such as aggression, irritability and repetitive behavior, but these medications may also have side effects. Medications such as fluoxetine (Prozac) and clomipramine (Anafranil) may reduce repetitive actions and other anxiety-related behavior. Methylphenidate may be used to treat hyperactive or impulsive behavior.

When To Call A Professional

If your toddler does not try to communicate with others, as you would normally expect, repeats words or certain actions over and over, or does not seem to want to play with other children, contact your doctor. Also, call promptly if your child repeatedly tries to injure himself.


The difficult behaviors seen in autistic toddlers tend to improve between ages 6 and 10. However, problems may re-surface during the teen and young adult years, eventually calming down again in middle and later life. Some children with autism are able to live independently; others may struggle to maintain normal social interactions, communication and behaviors.

Life expectancy depends on the presence of other conditions (such as epilepsy), as well as the overall general health of the autistic individual.

Additional Info: Autism Society of America, 7910 Woodmont Ave., Suite 300, Bethesda, MD 20814, 800.328.8476 or

The Silent Time Bomb Now Affecting 1 in 54 Boys in the US - Autism

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has announced that 1 in 88 children in the U.S. are now diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The number represents a 23 percent increase in the last two years and 78 percent in the past five years.

But that was just the average—the numbers were much greater for Hispanics (110 percent) and black children (91 percent).

The study, published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reportii , also found that ASDs are nearly five times more common among boys than girls.

Broken down, the numbers equate to 1 in 54 boys with ASDs, and 1 in 252 girls. The updated estimates are based on data collected in 14 American communities during 2008.

These communities comprised over eight percent of all American 8-year-olds that year. Interestingly, the number of children with ASDs varied widely from site to site.

The highest prevalence was found in Utah, where a staggering 1 in 47 eight-year-olds were identified with some form of ASD.

New Jersey was also far higher than the average, with 1 in 49. What's really going on here?

Autism Today Presents…..Temple By Telephone!

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada – How many times are we looking for answers to problems because we are frustrated, so we decide to come up with something that works much better?

 When Karen Simmons Sicoli,C.E.O. of and author of best-selling book, Little Rainman, experienced the inconvenience, cost and safety concerns of traveling all over the world to hear the experts, she thought there had to be a better way! This is when an idea came to her. Why not get the same necessary information to deal with her son who has Autism in a less expensive, more convenient way. Having a child with Autism is hard enough, why add to the mix unnecessary travel and expense. An idea was born!

Dr. Temple Grandin, author and presenter, will be leading a “Live Interactive Teleclass” for the first time ever March 25th from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. PST (Pacific Standard Time) available to anyone with a phone. Temple’s best selling books “Emergence Labeled Autistic", and "Thinking In Pictures” have helped countless individuals worldwide to understand how a person with Autism thinks and feels. You see, Temple is also a person with Autism!

Parents, teachers and all people related to Autism and/or Asperger’s Syndrome need to be on this call! (*Note, there are a limited number of lines so it’s first come, first served!).

Karen was the recent recipient of the “Internet Entrepreneur of the Year Award” by Mark Victor Hansen, author, Chicken Soup for The Soul Series and Robert Allen, author, Nothing Down. You can check out her online Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome Magazine and Resource center at: Autism Today

“My dream with these classes is to bring the teaching and inspiration of presenters such as Temple Grandin to parents and educators who don’t have the time or money to be traveling to different conferences every week. Being a parent myself, I knew that there is a need, signing up a presenter like Temple was a great confirmation that we are really onto something here.

For more information about Autism Today, visit or e-mail or call North America 877.482.1555. Alternate phone 780.482.1555 Karen Leigh Simmons is available for or media and other interviews by emailing or by calling 1-877-482-1555

Differences found in autistic brains

People with autism can be withdrawn. Researchers have identified structural differences in the brain of people with autism that may explain why they have problems communicating and socialising. The scientists used computerised imaging techniques to pinpoint differences in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.

Autism is a developmental disability that affects the way a person communicates and interacts with other people. People with autism cannot relate to others in a meaningful way. They also have trouble making sense of the world at large. As a result, their ability to develop friendships is impaired. They also have a limited capacity to understand other people's feelings.

The scientists examined brain tissue from nine autistic patients and nine people who did not have the condition. They focused on structures within the brain known as cell minicolumns which play an important role in the way the brain takes in information and responds to it. The cell minicolumns of autistic patients were found to be significantly smaller, but there were many more of them.

Researcher Dr Manuel Casanova said the increased amount of cell minicolumns in autistic people could mean that they are constantly in a state of overarousal. Their poor communication skills could be an attempt to diminish this arousal.

Brainstem damage

Previous research has suggested that autism is linked to damage to a part of the brain called the brainstem in the early stages of development. It is thought that this early injury might somehow interfere with the proper development or wiring of other brain regions resulting in the behavioural symptoms of autism.

A spokesperson for the UK National Autistic Society said the new research was consistent with this theory. "If the ability for complex communication is due to the subtle wiring of the millions of minicolumns found throughout the brain then any early impairments in development could explain the difficulties faced by people with autism spectrum disorders in the world. "Potentially it might lead to an understanding of how to help these individuals although this is a long way off.

Certainly the study reported is consistent with what is known about the difficulties people with autism spectrum disorders face in processing information." The frontal lobe of the brain is concerned with reasoning, planning, parts of speech and movement, emotions, and problem-solving. The temporal lobe is concerned with perception and recognition of sounds and memory.

 The new research was carried out by scientists at the Medical College of Georgia, the University of South Carolina, and the Downtown VA Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia. It is reported in Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.



  • 1 in 250 children is born with autism
  • 1 million to 1.5 million Americans have an autism sprectrum disorder
  • Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability, with 10% to 17% annual growth
  • Growth comparisions during the 1990s: US population increase 13%; Disabillities increase: 16%; Autism increase: 172%
  • $90 billion annual cost for treatment of autism
  • Cost of life-long care can be reduced by 2/3 with early diagnosis and intervention.


“What one mom wants to tell you when you ask if her daughter has autism.”

This story was originally published on The Mighty.

I’ve seen the looks. I’ve heard the whispers. Nobody actually says it to my face, but I see them wonder. “Are you sure she has autism?”

People have a narrow view of autism. They seem to think they would be able to spot a child with autism a mile away. They envision a nonverbal child lining up his cars. They envision a child who can recite statistics about Mars.

But that isn’t the reality of my child. That isn’t the experience in my house.

My child will greet you. She will say hello and make eye contact. She can be quite social and has no trouble answering your question of, “How are you today?” with a response of “fine.”

But she may not be feeling “fine.” It takes effort to muster up that response. She would likely much rather be in her room with her headphones on and her heavy blankets.

When you are asking her how she is, her brain may be latching on to sounds, and it can take effort to quiet them in her head. The feeling of the seam on her sock may start to send an overwhelming sensation pulsing up her body, causing her skin to itch and tingle. The lights in the room may seem too bright, making her head pound. But while all of that is going on in her body, she manages to look you in the eye and muster the words “I’m fine.”

So how does she do it?

Autism in girls like my daughter can look quite different.

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She has distinct instincts, so she learns to model and copy, but children with autism can have difficulty transferring information from one situation to another. She learns her friend Jane thinks it’s funny when she says a certain phrase, and she may expect everyone to think it’s funny

So when Suzy starts to get upset by the same thing, the world becomes a confusing place.

The strain and stress of holding it together can become a huge weight to bear. It can become too much to contain. It needs a release. It needs an outlet. This can be where aggressive, demanding, or oppositional behaviors come out — or at least that’s how it appears to the outside eye. The reality is that underneath is likely confusion and isolation and anxiety.

Autism is a spectrum. It is not a one-size-fits-all diagnosis.

While the spectrum includes some general traits, those traits do not present themselves the same way in all individuals. So people will wonder and whisper and question our diagnosis.

I won’t carry around my assessment papers to prove to the skeptics my daughter has autism. I shouldn’t have to.

There should be less judging and more acceptance. There should be less questioning.

So please don’t question if my daughter really has autism. Trust that she does. Trust that she is working hard to find her place in a world that can often be difficult to understand.


Scientists Retract Vaccine-Autism Link

Most of the scientists involved in a widely discredited 1998 study that suggested a link between childhood vaccinations and autism have renounced the conclusion.

New Research On Autism Points To A Novel "Gut" Disease In Some Kids

A maverick British scientist who now works in Austin has completed a new study on autism that links the disease to a novel intestinal illness


Autism is a type of developmental disability characterized by impairments in communication, social interaction and behavior.

CDC Study Finds Autism To Be Less Rare

The rate for autism in five metropolitan Atlanta counties is vastly greater -- by a rate of about nine times more -- than studies on the neurological disorder previously have documented, federal researchers said.


Do you know someone who has autism? Autism is a developmental disorder that affects a person's ability to communicate and interact with others. Read this article for teens to learn more.

Lawsuits Link Mercury With Autism

The families of nine autistic Georgia children claim in lawsuits that mercury exposure from dental fillings, vaccine preservatives and power plants caused or worsened the disability.


If you've ever wondered what the word autistic means, then this article is for you! Learn what autism is, what causes it, and what life is like for kids who have it.

Microsoft, UW develop program to treat autism syndrome online

Someone asks you about your day, and you don't know how to respond. A teacher calls on you in class and, even though you know the answer, you tremble with anxiety. For thousands of children suffering from Asperger's Syndrome, the social interaction of a typical day is like a terrifying visit to a foreign country where you don't speak the language or know the customs. The longer a child goes without treatment, the worse it gets. Kids can grow even more introverted, finding refuge in their own world because they can't understand what's going on outside.

In Seattle, which along with the Bay Area has the highest reported cases of Asperger's, researcher Felice Orlich is working with Microsoft to help speed up the wait for those kids. "The majority of kids who come (for treatment) just want to make friends and they don't know how," said Orlich, a clinical neuropsychologist with the University of Washington. "They just don't get it."

Microsoft Research and the Seattle university's Autism Center have developed a program called KidTalk that aims to teach much-needed social skills online. A pilot-test program begins in about a April, 2002.

KidTalk looks much like a typical computer chat room, with lines of text from different participants running down one side of the screen and smiley-face icons representing the participants on the other.

But instead of just letting the kids chat, the program presents them with a script for social interaction, such as a birthday party, and asks them to perform specific social tasks.

Kids who participate well are rewarded with points and smiling faces. Those who don't chat or chat too much will see their oversized face icon move away from the group.

A therapist moderates the session and can send messages to the participants privately, offering tips and rewards.

Kids who suffer from Asperger's — far more serious than social unease — may not even be able to simply introduce themselves, let alone follow the subtle social context of a typical party. Isolated and frustrated, many kids also suffer from depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder and can grow angry, even violent, at even the most minor change in routine.

While some get one-on-one therapy, many parents say group therapy is particularly helpful because kids learn to interact with kids their own age.

Parents and researchers think online therapy might be more comfortable to Asperger's sufferers, who find solace in the familiar, rules-based structure of computer interaction. Many also feel much less anxiety when they can organize their thoughts and type them, rather than speak.

The whole thing about Asperger's is that they need to understand more about the nonverbal-language skills. The nonverbal language that you use, which is all the facial expressions and the body language, is not something you can really learn (online).

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network

ASAN seeks to advance the principles of the disability rights movement with regard to autism. ASAN believes that the goal of autism advocacy should be a world in which Autistic people enjoy the same access, rights, and opportunities as all other citizens. We work to empower Autistic people across the world to take control of our own lives and the future of our common community, and seek to organize the Autistic community to ensure our voices are heard in the national conversation about us. Nothing About Us, Without Us!

Who We Are

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization run by and for Autistic people. ASAN was created to serve as a national grassroots disability rights organization for the Autistic community, and does so by advocating for systems change and ensuring that the voices of Autistic people are heard in policy debates and the halls of power while working to educate communities and improve public perceptions of autism. ASAN’s members and supporters include Autistic adults and youth, cross-disability advocates, and non-autistic family members, professionals, educators and friends.

Position Statements

ASAN advocates specific policy positions on issues of importance to Autistic people and others with disabilities. In so doing, we seek to ensure the meaningful involvement of Autistic individuals in making policy at all levels, to promote a culture of inclusion and respect for all, to enforce the rights of Autistic people to equal opportunity at school and at work, and to improve funding for community services and supports along with research into how they can best be provided.

Autism Acceptance Month - April

April is Autism Acceptance Month, part of a history of campaigns by autistic people and our allies to shift the month’s focus from autism awareness to autism acceptance. In support of this community-wide effort, ASAN has created a dedicated website for Autism Acceptance Month, and provides unique programming every April focused on promoting acceptance and inclusion and changing the dialogue about autism from fear, pity, and tragedy to support, acceptance, and empowerment.

The tagline for our Autism Acceptance Month website is “Acceptance is an action.” This means that autism acceptance is an active process that requires both a shift in thinking and in action. To support this endeavour, our website provides fact sheets and resources about autism for autistic people, family members, educators, and the general public, as well as a home for our Listen Up! PSA campaign series, blogs, a selection of self-advocates and families members talking about what autism acceptance means to them and looks like in their everyday lives, and much more. The website also serves as a central location for posting and sharing information about autism acceptance-themed events occurring across the United States throughout April. Finally, the website features a pledge visitors can sign, committing not to give your time, business or attendance to autism events that talk about Autistic people without including us.

We invite you to visit the Autism Acceptance Month website, sign the pledge, and share the resources with your friends and colleagues. Together, we can work to change dialogue about autism from fear, pity, and tragedy to support, acceptance, and empowerment.

Autistics Need Acceptance, Not Cure

This month, which is Autism Awareness Month, I'm hiding my eyes and those of my autistic 8-year old son from the media.

National headlines that describe autism as an epidemic, or pandemic. Public service announcements liken autism to being kidnapped.

A government Web site defines autism as a "devastating scourge." An autism "expert" decrees that autism is worse "than Sept. 11 and AIDS combined." An Autism Society Canada board member proclaims that autism is worse than cancer — because people with autism have normal lifespans.

Have you — like my son and me — ever heard parents say how learning that their child was autistic was like experiencing a death in their family? Have you ever been at the playground when a mother classifies her children, standing right there beside her, as this one who is autistic but these other two who are — thank goodness — perfectly normal?

They say that autism entails difficulty taking another person's perspective, appreciating how another person might feel. But when I read or hear such hate speech I wonder: Exactly who has a problem taking another person's perspective? Who can't appreciate the feelings of others?

My son surely can. He understands quite well that there are so-called autism "advocates" who despise autism, who march thousand-fold against it with placards calling for its defeat, its demise. His demise.

Oh, you say, those people don't want to get rid of my son, they just want to get rid of that part of him that's autistic. But research demonstrates that autistic traits are distributed into the non-autistic population; some people have more of them, some have fewer. History suggests that many individuals whom we would today diagnose as autistic — some severely so — contributed profoundly to our art, our math, our science, and our literature.

Most poignantly, many autistics affirm that it would be impossible to segregate the part of them that is autistic. To take away their autism is to take away their personhood. Despite our politically correct labeling, they are autistic; they don't "have" autism any more than homosexuals have gayness or lesbianism. Like their predecessors in human rights, many autistics don't want to be cured; they want to be accepted. And like other predecessors in civil rights, many autistics don't want to be required to imitate the majority just to earn their rightful place in society.

I'm a middle-aged psychology professor who holds an endowed chair at a major research university. But my son has taught me far more than I ever learned in my lab. Every time he walks by a poster avowing that autism must be eradicated, he teaches me grace. Every time he ignores one of the countless scholarly articles that tower above my desk, asserting he is disordered, he teaches me tolerance. Every time he embraces a world that so frequently rebuffs him, he teaches me unconditional love.

What if next year we celebrate the diversity of social interaction observed within and across all cultures? What if this "awareness" month marked a time to appreciate the variation that all humans demonstrate in their style and competence in communication? What if it heralded an era during which we marveled at the determined focus that in my occupation often wins indefinite tenure but in a precocious child gets labeled as diseased?

Then, neither my son nor I would feel compelled to hide.

I Want to Tell You a Secret About Autism Awareness

I want to tell you a secret about Autism Awareness. I'm telling you because you have a stake in the autism community; whether you touch one or many lives, you can change them, you are powerful. And, like me, you care. You want to make a difference -- for yourself, for your child, for someone you love, for someone who depends on you. And you can make a difference, you will, if you keep this cornerstone of Autism Awareness in mind at all times. Ready? Here it is:

Behavior is communication. That's it. That's all. That's everything.

If you put your mental backbone into behavioral awareness, into trying to understand why a person with autism, or a person associated with autism, behaves the way they do -- if you can make yourself truly aware of that person's needs -- then that is when the connections will happen, that is when you will make a difference, that is when awareness can leapfrog goodwill, and translate into real-world benefits and positive actions.

If you're a parent of a young child with a new autism diagnosis, a behavioral awareness mindshift can be hard. It's not how most of us are taught to think about parenting. And you're already struggling with so much right now: you love your child, want the best outcome for your child -- yet you've been handed an autism label with all its associated baggage and media fearmongering.

You need to remember that an autism label is just that -- a label. It can help describe your child, but it doesn't define your child. You need to set the label aside, enlist it as needed, and instead hyperfocus on what your child does, and why they do it. You'll probably have to jettison some lingering hopes and dreams about your child's future to focus on your child's reality -- but since parenting always involves a large amount of eventual ego-disentangling, assure yourself that you're actually ahead of the curve.

You can learn a lot from parents who actively practice behavioral awareness, parents like Todd Drezner, who directed the must-see autism understanding and acceptance movie Loving Lampposts; Kristina Chew, mother of the legendary and now teenage Charlie; Jennifer Byde Myers, whose son Jake has a constellation of diagnoses besides autism; and author Laura Shumaker, whose son Matthew is legally of drinking age.

But, the behaviors! They don't always make sense, not on the surface, not if you've never encountered anything like them before. Does your child scream if they can't wear their favorite shoes? Can they talk happily (and indefinitely) about sprinkler systems or precious gems or superheroes? Do they enjoy fondling material of certain textures without regard for where or on whom that fabric may be located? Do they fear the toilet, the market, the dentist? Make understanding those behaviors the focus of your approach. Decide which quirks are quirky, and which are legitimate impediments to learning, self-care, health, and socialization -- then put your energies into helping your child get past the roadblocks.

Get professional help if possible, from a behaviorist who can explain that yelling at a child to stop unspooling toilet paper or "punishing" a child by ousting them from circle time may actually be exactly what that kid wants -- you may be unwittingly helping perpetuate undesired behaviors. But know that not all professionals are going to be in tune with your child's behaviors, no matter how much training and experience they've had. Be careful about ceding authority to a professional whose own behavior is more about showcasing their knowledge, and less about applying their observation skills to help you or your child.

Most autism community members who practice behavioral awareness will eventually encounter autism parents who disagree about best autism practices. And that's OK, too -- if you understand those parents' behavior. Are they truly interested in giving their child the best life possible? Do they fight hard for educational placements and evidence-based supports? Are any of their chosen therapies actively harming their child? If the answers are "yes," "yes," and "no," then you likely have more in common with those parents than not, and the relationships are worth pursuing. You don't have to agree with autism parents about every last thing -- I doubt that any useful, forward-thinking community is a Shangri-La of consensus. But you do need to be wary of parents who place their egos, their fear of autism, and their desire for a "typical" child above the needs of the actual children in their care. Still, you should support those parents by listening, if they'll let you -- with enough positive role modeling, they may swing round and start investing in behavioral awareness, their kids might receive respect in addition to love, and our community will strengthen and become more whole.

When I feel the need to better understand my son Leo's behaviors, or when I'm feeling low because despite his and our best efforts, we cannot solve his behavioral crises, I seek solace in the experiences of people with autism. Sometimes I use Twitter -- a great resource for queries both specific and general (many of my Twitter conversations have deepened into cherished friendships). Sometimes I search those same autistics' blogs or message boards as a grateful lurker. I don't always find agreement -- peoples' backgrounds and experience vary, as they do in most populations. And not all people with autism are interested in being role models or sounding boards for parents like me, which is fair. But I almost always come away with greater understanding, useful information, and a renewed awe for the generosity of the autistic community.

Behavioral awareness is not a magical mitigation tool. We still have tough times: Leo finds summers and their schedule disruptions disorienting and distressing, and sometimes he is inconsolable. My husband and I do our best to understand why Leo gets so upset, and sometimes Leo tries to tell us. But our boy doesn't always have the language he needs; at times, he cries himself to sleep out of frustration and exhaustion. It breaks all three of our hearts.

I know these episodes will get easier as Leo's communication skills improve. I also know that they used to be commonplace, especially when Leo was little, before we understood so many of the behaviors that make our wonderful boy tick, and before we had the awareness to appreciate our son for exactly who he is.

Her mind works like Google Images. Meet Temple Grandin.

People with autism and Asperger's see the world in very different ways from the rest of us. Here's a peek into that world from someone who has lived it.

Temple Grandin spent her early life basically, as she says, “goofing off" until a science teacher made her brain light up.

She was born with autism, during a time when people didn't understand it well — as in, the late 1940s.


To be honest, it's still not very well understood, though research has been growing.

Take a look a the surprising graph with data from the Centers for Disease Control on the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Diagnosis since just 1970. Temple was born 23 years before this graph even begins to chart, when it was much less known.

Rise in the Prevalence of Autism
1 in 5000
1 in 2500
1 in 500
1 in 250
1 in 166
1 in 110
1 in 88

Source: Center for Disease Control. Image originally from Autism Speaks, with additional graph provided by The Fullerton Informer.

(And no, vaccinations do not cause autism. Science has proven otherwise, so please do not take away from this with anything that's purely fiction.)

She's done a lot of things since then; she became a professor of animal science at Colorado State University, a best-selling author, a consultant to the livestsock industry, and a popular public speaker.

Oh, and when she talks about "The movie," she means this HBO award-winning movie from 2010. It's very much worth your time to check out:

What can we do?

  • As she talks about, educators and parents need to find ways to get folks who are on the spectrum to be engaged and thrilled to be using their unique brains the way they need to in order to make a difference in the world.
  • Understand their reality. She was a "different" kid, and adult. She made it work because she found her place and made other humans understand that she didn't function the way that they do. What if we approached other humans on a regular basis with this understanding and empathy? What a wonderful world it would be, indeed.
  • Get to know a family with kids who are differently abled than the rest of us. See what their world is like, and maybe make them feel loved — or at least, understood a little better.
  • Spread the word — when you see her movie or her TED talk, pass it around. It's a great place to start a conversation.


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Today, 50 families in American will find out that their child has autism! - Autism Society of American

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