Saturday, April 2, 2011

Autism Awareness

~ How Many People with Autism Do You Know?

Autism Speaks | Light it up blue!
~ My daughter has autism.

I know firsthand the challenges, joys, and sometimes conflicting emotions that come with loving someone who is "on the spectrum" with this most enigmatic attribute.

April is Autism Awareness Month, and today is Autism Awareness Day. Chances are you know more people with autism than you realize. You certainly know more than your parents or grandparents did. 1 child in every 110 born today is diagnosed with autism. The incidence amongst boys is 1 in 70.

Autism is common. It is more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined.

Many famous people have children with autism, including: Stephen Stills, Doug Flutie, Jenny McCarthy, Sylvester Stallone, Toni Braxton, Dan Marino, and John Travolta. Our former US Senator Slade Gorton has a grandson with autism. Many famous people are thought to have (or to have had) autism, including Dan Ackroyd, Darryl Hannah, Mark Twain, Albert Einstein, Craig McCaw and Bill Gates. The first person diagnosed as an "autistic" was in 1951; he's now 78. Read a fascinating article about him, and his life here.

Most people with autism have difficulty with social relationships; symptoms include difficulty communicating, trouble understanding and interpreting the emotions and feelings of others, repetitive behaviors, and sometimes other physical symptoms such as seizures, pica, and gastrointestinal disorders. Know the early signs so you can take action to help someone you love. Early diagnosis and treatment can make a big difference.

I am lucky indeed to have great kids, including my daughter with autism who will turn 21 this July. I choose my words deliberately: it is not "she is autistic"; rather, she has autism. It is part of who she is, but it does not define her. My daughter is a wonderful artist, has many friends, is deeply intelligent, loves books, and has a delightful sense of humor.

Chris Leyerle's autistic daughter, camping at Shi Shi Beach

She is the happiest person I know.

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