April is National Autism Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising both awareness and money for those in the autism community.
This month, people and organizations across the nation plan events and fundraisers in recognition of those affected by autism.
Autism is a complex brain developmental disorder characterized by difficulty socializing, verbal and nonverbal interaction, repetitive behaviors, and sometimes debilitating medical issues.
These symptoms vary so sufferers may have their diagnosis on either end of the autism spectrum, depending on the severity of their characteristics.
In the United States, an estimated 1 in 88 children are identified on the autism spectrum.
The disorder is more prevalent in male children, as 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls in the United States are diagnosed on the spectrum.
In Arizona, 1 child out of every 64 girls and 1 out of every 40 boys show symptoms that put them on the autism spectrum.
Autism Speaks is a national autism science and advocacy organization that funds scientific research, provides family services to those affected by autism and raises awareness on the disorder through special events, advertisements and campaigns.
“Our goal is to promote autism awareness and make the lives of those affected by autism that much easier,” said Amy Hummell, Senior Director of the Autism Speaks Arizona Office. “The more people know about autism, the more understanding they can be, which can stop the bullying and the misconceptions that come along with this disorder.”
Hummell said that autism manifests itself differently for each person and the severity of symptoms can be as diverse as the population it’s affecting.
“If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism,” Hummell said. “The symptoms for autism are different for each person, which is why there’s a spectrum. We want people to be aware of things like these symptoms so they can better understand the disorder and the lives of people living with it.”
The origin of autism is still a mystery and both genetic and environmental factors are still in question in terms of scientific research.
According to Autism Speaks, prevalence figures are constantly increasing and autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the United States.
However, research into the cause, treatment and prevention of autism comes at a cost, which is where celebrations like National Autism Awareness Month can help raise funds to continue this research.
Autism Speaks also provides free access to information regarding family services in order to assist the families of children living with autism.
These online resources include a list of schools by area that are equipped with the skills needed to provide a quality education for children with autism spectrum disorders.
Pieceful Solutions is a K-12 school created specifically to cater to the needs of students with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities.
The school provides individualized instruction that includes basic education curriculum as well as special classes that teach life and social skills.
“A lot of our kids were bullied in public schools because they were different and didn’t have the social skills to defend themselves,” said Kami Cothrun, owner of Pieceful Solutions. “The kids feel safe here with peers that are like them. Pieceful Solutions gives these children an alternative solution to education in a stress-free environment.”
The school has both a Mesa and a Chandler campus and is in its fifth year of operation.
Pieceful Solutions started out in its first year with only six students, this year there are 110, and the projected amount of students for 2015 is 200 kids, between both campuses.
“We’re not trying to fix anybody,” Cothrun said. “We accept the kids for who they are.”
To find out more about Pieceful Solutions, visit: www.piecefulsolutions.com.
For additional information about Autism Speaks, visit: www.autismspeaks.org/