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SOUCHERAY: Take time in April to understand Autism

April is Autism Awareness Month. Autism, often referred to as ASD, or Autism Spectrum Disorders, has a prevalence of six children per 1,000. The month of April provides a reminder and an opportunity to become more aware of the condition. While there are many theories about the causes of autism, no one is certain why it occurs. What does seem clear is that we have more reported cases of this difficult and debilitating disorder than ever before and that greater awareness and acceptance is needed.

We find that more boys have autism than girls, by a margin of four or five to one. If a family has one autistic child, there is a greater possibility to have another and it is not unusual to find that one of the parents seems to have some similar characteristics of autism, themselves. In addition, if a child has autism, it is also not unusual to see that other conditions are associated with it, such as ADHD, Tourette's Syndrome or epilepsy.

There are generally three areas of concern for children who have autism. The first is social interaction, as the child does not seem to understand how to connect with others or to share and understand feelings. Another area is language development, as children with autism often have delayed language development, as well as difficulty making eye contact when speaking. The final area of concern is behaviors that are repetitive, such as hand-flapping, spinning or "stimming," which seem to help the child manage a difficult situation.

Families who are raising a child with autism often share that they don't feel their child understands how to connect with them, nor they with their child, which leaves the parents and family members feeling frustrated, sad and concerned. They also share that they often feel isolated and misunderstood by others who don't know about autism and judge them or don't know how to help.

If you want to learn more about how to support and assist families who are raising a child with autism, begin by educating yourself about the disorder. You will find information at the website

/autism, as well as ideas of how to encourage and aid a family who is raising a child with autism.

An outspoken proponent of autism education is Dr. Temple Grandin, Ph.D., as she herself has autism. You will find more information at the website and have an opportunity to watch a video about autism. April is Autism Awareness Month. Let's do all we can to understand and help the families who are doing all they can to assist their children in managing a difficult, and often seemingly unfriendly, world.

Soucheray is a Woodbury resident and a licensed family therapist