We continue to look for ways to share valuable information with our members. April is National Autism Month so we thought we’d bring you some information from an autism expert. Educational Insights connected zulily with Terri Chew Nishimura, CEO of the Pediatric Therapy Network, to talk about the history of the month and the need for education about autism.
zulily: What is National Autism Awareness Month?
TCN: In order to highlight the growing need, awareness and acceptance about autism, April has been designated as “Autism Awareness Month” in the United States. The purpose is to shed light on the need to help improve the lives of children and adults who have autism, so they can lead full and meaningful lives. Due to concerns by the prevalence of the high rate of autism in children in all regions of the world, the United Nations in 2007 sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day to be held every April 2nd. According to the General Assembly, autism “posed challenges to long term health care, education, and training and intervention programs and has a tremendous impact on children, their families, communities and societies”. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now estimates that 1 in 50 school aged children may have the disorder.
zulily: What do you think are the most important things for people to know about austism?
TCN: It is important for people to be educated and informed on autism and to know that early identification and intervention are critical to improve the outcomes for children with ASD.
What is autism? Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a broad group of developmental brain disorders which can cause significant communication, social, motor, sensory and behavioral challenges that typically appear during the first three years of life. ASD is a spectrum disorder which means that it affects each person in different ways and can range from mild to severe. With the rate of 1 in 50, nearly everyone knows someone with ASD.
It is important to know the early signs of autism because early identification and early intervention can make a difference. Research shows that early intervention can greatly improve a child’s development. The brain develops the most in its early years and therapy programs can make positive changes in the brain’s structure and have a very profound lifelong influence. Early intervention from birth to three can help a child learn important developmental skills that can carry on throughout life. There are many different types of treatments available for individuals with ASD. If you are concerned, contact your child’s doctor or get a referral to a specialist such as developmental pediatricians, child neurologists, child psychologists or psychiatrists or pediatric occupational, physical or speech therapists. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends autism screening for all children between 18 and 24 months. Find out more about the “Early Signs” at Autism Speaks.
zulily: Why should the community participate in National Autism Awareness Month? And how can they participate?
TCN: Autism Awareness Month allows the community an opportunity to learn, inform, celebrate, honor, advocate and share. There are many different ways to participate in National Autism Awareness Month:
Educate yourself on current information or research on autism and share your knowledge with those around you.
Advocate by contacting your local, state and federal representatives on legislative issues
Support or volunteer at organizations that advocate, research or provide services for individuals with ASD
Attend an event in your community. This year, Major League Baseball is teaming up with Autism Speaks in a league wide effort to recognize Autism Awareness Month.
Honor individuals with autism or their families by embracing them as part of your community.
zulily: How does the puzzle piece symbol reflect National Autism Awareness Month?
TCN: The Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon is the most recognized symbol of the autism community in the world. The puzzle pattern reflects the complexity of ASD and the different colors and shapes represent the diversity of the people living with the disorder. The brightness of the ribbon represents hope that through awareness, research and effective treatment and services, people with autism will lead fuller and more complete lives.
Facts and Statistics from the Autism Society and Autism Speaks:
1 percent of the population of children in the US ages 3-17 have ASD
Every 11 minutes a child is born who will soon be diagnosed with ASD
1 to 1.5 million Americans live with ASD
ASD is the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the U.S.
Cost of lifelong care can be reduced by 2/3 with early diagnosis and intervention
Boys are nearly five times more likely than girls to have autism
There is no medical detection or cure for autism
zulily: Can you speak to the importance of developing products for the special needs population?
TCN: Through play children learn skills that contribute to their physical, cognitive, social, language and emotional development. Play is fun, spontaneous and universal. Play is needed for the healthy development of children. Research shows that the majority of brain development occurs after birth and is influenced by early sensory, motor, and social experiences. According to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, “the emotional and physical health, social skills, and cognitive-linguistic capacities that emerge in the early years are all important prerequisites for success in school and later in the workplace and community.” In addition, play activities are important for the entire family and help develop strong family bonds. Through the interaction of toys and play, young children can learn about classification, imagination, logic, memory and concentration, independence, functional spontaneous communication, social competence and generalization of skills. Children with ASD can have unique needs and may benefit from toys or other products that provide play experiences that include movement, auditory, tactile, visual, language, creativity, fine and gross motor skills, social skills, creativity and cognitive skills to enhance their development.
In honor of special-needs kids everywhere, zulily assembled a hand-selected collection of items especially for them. From clothing and toys to mugs and books for readers of all ages, the items in this darling event help us celebrate the differences that make all children unique and special: http://zuli.ly/15aQdev.