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A Reflection on Autism Awareness Month

by | Apr 5, 2022 | #DiversityandInclusion

Puzzle head brain concept as a human face profile made from crumpled white paper with a jigsaw piece cut out on a rustic old wood background as a mental health symbol.With the continued goal of broadening our perspective of life, Bowman & Company LLP encourages everyone to learn about autism and support those who are either directly or indirectly impacted by it.

In the United States and many other parts of the world, April is recognized as Autism Awareness Month. There has been significant progress in the 21st century in understanding the science behind Autism, which is now commonly classified as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It is important to learn about ASD for multiple reasons including those listed below:

  • To communicate effectively with diagnosed individuals
  • To understand the potential dangers of ASD
  • To detect ASD in children at a young age
  • To empathize with those who are diagnosed with ASD (as well as those who care for them)
  • To destigmatize ASD and clarify common misconceptions/stereotypes

The word “spectrum” in ASD is vital to understanding this condition – ASD affects all individuals differently. So, approaches to communicating, teaching, and caring for people with ASD requires a unique approach on a personal level. However, there are some relevant statistics that demonstrate some broad trends. For example, about 40% of those with ASD are classified as “non-verbal”. Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) affects between 30-61% of individuals with ASD. Disturbingly, schizophrenia afflicts between 4-35% of adults with autism. Taking all of these factors into consideration, it is important to understand that while you might be speaking to a person with ASD directly/clearly, it does not mean that communication may be received and/or reciprocated “normally” by the individual. It is critical to be patient as well as open to subtle or indirect cues when communicating with those with ASD.

Another key to understanding ASD is knowing that the condition affects all demographics. Although boys are 4 times more likely to have ASD (1 in 27, as opposed to 1 in 116 for girls), it certainly does not mean that the condition is exclusive to any demographic. Regardless of socioeconomics, ethnicity, or any other factors, ASD is a genetic condition that affects all different groups. However, individuals with ASD that belong to minority groups are less likely to be officially diagnosed (for instance, partly due to less available health care), and therefore are less likely to receive proper services and education. Knowing that anybody can be born with ASD is helpful because being able to identify it in children at a young age is a major advantage; the sooner that children have access to services and education for ASD, the greater the chance of them reaching their potential. After all – proper care and services throughout childhood for those with ASD cost on average $60,000. There are lots of resources needed for developing children with ASD; growing up without them can be even more of a burden than the costs associated with the proper care.

Unfortunately, ASD has many physical and mental challenges. The most commonly recognized effects of ASD are learning and developmental disabilities – however, there are serious health risks. Anxiety, depression, chronic sleep problems, gastrointestinal disorders, and epilepsy are much more common in people with ASD than those without. Behaviorally, ASD can lead people into dangerous situations and environments. Nearly half of people with ASD “wander or bolt from safety”. Tragically, around 90% of fatalities of children under 14 with ASD are a result of drowning. And in a study of 8-year-olds with ASD, 28% have self-harming habitual behaviors (scratching, biting, head banging, etc.).

By understanding the difficulties, risks, and facts on the matter, you can build a more inclusive world for those who live a perpetually difficult life. Bowman & Company LLP encourages you to research even further, and we hope to build a culture of understanding and compassion both in the workplace and in the community.

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