Iliana Woloch ‘24, News Editor
Since the 1970s, April has been dedicated as Autism Awareness Month. However, despite the decades long observance, during the past few years, organizations and individuals across the United States have been working to rebrand that name through social media and other platforms.
For the past 50 plus years, the goal in April has been to spread awareness about ASD and its symptoms, and it is still a crucial goal to ensure that those with ASD receive the aid and support they deserve. However, a recent shift has begun, replacing Autism Awareness Month with Autism Acceptance and Awareness Month. Christopher Banks, CEO of the Autism Society of America, said, “While we will always work to spread awareness, words matter as we strive for autistic individuals to live fully in all areas of life…As many individuals and families affected by autism know, acceptance is often one of the biggest barriers to finding and developing a strong support system.”
Additionally, SLHS has made efforts to welcome the shift. Mrs. Hindersman, SLHS’s PEER’s coordinator states, “[The] PEER mentors have worked hard to embrace and incorporate this shift into all the activities they are planning for the month of April”. Hindersman went on to say, “This is the motivation behind SLHS’s PEER’s Program, with a goal of Positively Empowering & Encouraging Relationships between all students.” Some of the aforementioned events include: Autism Acceptance & Awareness puzzle pin sales, Unified basketball and soccer games, and the upcoming PEER’s “rack em’ up and knock em’ over” bowling outing.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a term that refers to a neurological disconnect that impacts—in varying degrees—an individual’s speech, behavior and social communication skills. Many students on the spectrum have difficulty with speech and nonverbal communication, they may display repetitive behaviors, struggle with sensory processing, as well as trouble processing and responding to social situations.
A saying frequently used by Grand Valley University’s Statewide Autism Resources and Training program (START) states, “If you meet a person on the Spectrum, you have only met ONE person on the Autism Spectrum”. People with ASD do not all display their struggles the same way, instead, the degree to which they experience its effects vary.
According to the Center for Disease Control, one in 34 children living in America are affected by Autism; with boys being four times more likely than girls. If those who are affected are not provided with the right support early on, many of these individuals will struggle to lead functionally independent lives. However, with patience and help from friends, family, and those in the community, persons on the Spectrum can be just as successful.