Many officials, leaders and citizens representing government, organizations and businesses gathered Wednesday morning at the Fayette County Courthouse to show their support for Autism Awareness Month.
A photo, organized by Rose Hazelbaker, was taken on the courthouse steps.
Hazelbaker is a Washington Court House resident who expresses much passion in sharing information and finding resources for and regarding autism. She, herself, has a child with autism who has provided her with many experiences.
A notice Hazelbaker sent out to community members said, “April is Autism Awareness Month. This year we would like our theme to be Autism Acceptance.”
In the past, autism was not known. Children were misdiagnosed and those with autism were placed outside of society in institutions. It was a common view that the cause was how the children were raised. Since parents were often blamed for the disorder, shame was a common feeling associated with autism. More information on the history can be found at www.nationalautismcenter.org.
Now it is known that autism is a neurological disorder and is most likely caused by a combination of factors in both genetics and the environment. Parents are not where the blame belongs, but it is believed that many people in society do not truly understand this.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) “is a complex developmental disability” that acts as an umbrella term, according to www.autism-society.org. It is considered a developmental disability as signs tend to first appear during the first two years of life, however autism can be diagnosed at any age. The disorder affects the ability to communicate and interact with others.
The disorder, as Hazelbaker wanted to point out, does not take away emotions or intelligence. Those with the disorder can still understand what is happening around them and will still have emotions even if they are unable to communicate those feelings or thoughts.
Autism is a unique disorder that can be a little different in every individual. Some are able to function within society, which is unofficially called high-functioning autism and used to be diagnosed as Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). Essentially, these are individuals who are able to communicate more effectively and are most likely able to read, write, speak and handle basic life skills. They may even be capable of living independently of caregivers.
AS, often called Asperger’s, was a previously used diagnosis separate from autism. Although people will still identify themselves under this diagnosis, it is no longer officially utilized. In 2013, it became part of the umbrella term: autism spectrum disorder.
According to the Autism Society, “What distinguishes Asperger’s Disorder from classic autism are its less severe symptoms and the absence of language delays.” Hazelbaker pointed out that those with AS are often mistaken as being difficult: stubborn, selfish or defiant.
The earlier autism is diagnosed, the earlier treatment can begin. People do not outgrow autism, but they are able to be trained and taught various life skills to assist them to better communicate and live independently.
Early signs of autism, which can be found on the Autism Society website, include: lack or a delay of spoken language, little or no eye contact, lack of interest in relationships with peers, lack of make-believe play, a persistent fixation on parts of objects and repetitive language or motor mannerism use (like hand-flapping or twirling objects).
Other symptoms, according to information Hazelbaker put together, includes: unusual body language, unusual gestures, unusual facial expressions, seizures, avoiding eye contact, lack of interest in others, lack of interest in sharing interests and achievements, unlikely to approach others or pursue social interaction, prefers to be alone, comes across as aloof or detached, difficulty understanding people’s feelings or actions, difficulty understanding others nonverbal cues, resistance to being touched and difficulty or failure to make friends with children their age.
Those with autism are typically sensitive to stimuli. Loud sounds, bright colors or being touched can easily cause too much stimulation for them to handle. There are ways to better work with and communicate with people who are diagnosed in the autism spectrum. Several resources exist online.
Facts put together by Hazelbaker include the following:
- A 2017 study found that 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with autism
- 1 in 42 boys are on the autism spectrum
- Boys are five-times more likely than girls to have autism
- 100 children are diagnosed every day
- A new case is diagnosed nearly every 20 minutes
- Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability
- More children will be diagnosed this year with autism than diabetes, pediatric aids, down syndrome and cancer combined
- Autism costs the nation more than an estimated $137 billion annually
- $60,000 on average per year is funded by the family of a child with autism
- With early intervention, the costs can be decreased by two-thirds
- Approximately 2 million individuals in the USA have autism
- There is no medical detection or cure for autism
- No study has been undergone that has directly linked a pure genetics basis for autism
- The fastest growing genetic disorders increase at an appropriate rate of 1 percent per 100 years, but autism is growing at a much greater rate
After the picture at the courthouse was taken, Washington C.H. City Manager Joseph Denen read a proclamation. The proclamation was as follows:
“ASD is a complex developmental disability with signs that typically appear during early childhood and affect a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others.” He read, “Nearly a 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 ASD is provided the opportunity to achieve the highest possible quality of life.”
The proclamation explained that “the Autism Society wishes to ensure acceptance and inclusion in schools and communities that results in true appreciation of the unique aspects of all people, to get one step closer to a society where those with ASD are truly valued for their unique talents and gifts. Now, therefore, join us in celebration for April 2019 as National Autism Awareness Month!”
The proclamation ends with a call-to-action: “Let’s go beyond simply promoting autism awareness to encouraging friends and collaborators to become partners in movement toward acceptance and appreciation and call upon all citizens of the City of Washington Court House and Fayette County to acclaim their support for those with autism and their care-givers within our community.”
The proclamation was signed on April 3 by Denen, Washington C.H. City Council Chairperson Jim Chrisman, and the Fayette County Commissioners: Tony Anderson, Daniel Dean and James Garland.
Hazelbaker said those with autism “have the feeling they’re falling apart.” She explained it’s like having a severe anxiety attack but 10 times worse. “We don’t want to throw these kids away. These kids are extremely bright.”
Hazelbaker recalled a time when her son was 6-years old and when asked by his teacher to draw a park, he drew an intricate picture of a sewer system. When the teacher asked about the drawing, the child explained he wouldn’t want to go to a park without a bathroom.
Hazelbaker is having a coloring competition for kids ages 5-10. When families eat at Frisch’s Big Boy, kids can color four pieces of a puzzle the colors of red, blue, yellow and green. The competition ends Sunday and there will be three winners chosen for a gift certificate. Chris Bashaw will be the judge of the competition as Hazelbaker said, “Chris loves art; he is so good at art.” The colors and puzzle signify the uniqueness of those who fit into the autism spectrum.
Follow the Record-Herald for information on more Autism Awareness Month community events happening in Fayette County. Those planning events can contact Jennifer Woods with information.
Reach Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355 or on Twitter @kenanipel.