April: Autism Awareness Month

Please listen to “So it Goes” from Songs for Autism while reading this article. At the end of the article, re-listen to the song to have a greater understanding and appreciation of what the lyrics are talking about.


The term “different” has become somewhat of an understatement over the years. Autism is a disorder that anyone can have. It is not always noticeable, you may know a person for your whole life and never know that they are autistic. Everyone is bound to be different, but it’s whom we are that makes us unique.

It is estimated by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that 1 in 68 individuals fall on the autism spectrum. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are complex neurological disorders that affect an individual’s social behaviors and communication. Autism has a spectrum scale in which individuals can experience any combination of symptoms with different degrees of severity.

Some behaviors of ASD are not always apparent in infancy; however, they usually show up during early childhood (between 24 months and six years). ASD has no boundaries in which symptoms may occur. It can affect any individual regardless of ethnic background, religion, race, or status.

Asperger syndrome is an autistic disorder, which is often left undiagnosed until an individual begins to have serious difficulties in certain interactions. The reason it is so widely undiagnosed is that it is considered to be on the “high functioning” end of the spectrum. Individuals with Asperger’s may experience a small delay in motor development, difficulty in social interactions, and may display a restricted range of interests and, or repetitive behaviors.

Although the abilities and skills of autistic individuals vary from person to person, there are typically four main areas in which they experience some sort of challenge.

Some individuals have a hard time communicating verbally and nonverbally with others. This may mean they cannot speak, they speak using short worded phrases, or they may engage in conversation but may have trouble contributing to a variety of topics.

Most autistic individuals have their own way of communicating. Other challenges include difficulty understanding language and reasoning, challenges socializing, and challenging behavior.

The Northwestern Pennsylvania-Autism Society of America (NWPA-ASA) stresses that there are some important facts that people must know in regards to autism.

First of all, a diagnosis of autism is based on a child’s behavior and skill development. A genetic marker has not been found in autism. Secondly, about one-third of all individuals with autism develop seizures in adolescence. Thirdly, autism runs in families. If there is a family with an autistic child, the chances of having another child with autism are 3 to 5 percent.

Autistic individuals can improve tremendously through well-designed educational, behavioral, speech, and sensory based programs. They also experience a normal lifespan and the cause of autism is not known.


Many organizations supporting autism awareness and growth are excited that Governor Tom Wolf declared April Autism Acceptance Month for all of Pennsylvania. According to sources of such organizations, it is a great accomplishment for appreciation to the autistic community.

On Friday, Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Ted Dallas announced that 370 of the commonwealth’s 540 magisterial judges have received training on how to improve interaction with witnesses or suspects who have autism.

According to the Pennsylvania Autism Census, there are more than 55,000 children and adults with autism receiving services in the commonwealth. Judges are mandated under a 2015 law to renew their training every six years.

Throughout the week of April 4-10, participating Panera Bread chains in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania will be hosting a cookie sale, titled Pieces of Hope for Autism. All of the proceeds from each puzzle piece shortbread cookie sold at the Panera Bread bakery will benefit the Autism Society of Northwestern Pennsylvania. Please visit covelli.com/autism for more information regarding this event.

Our own Edinboro University students from the speech, language, and hearing department recently hosted a “Sensory Night” as apart of Autism-Awareness Month. Students were able to engage their five senses in a variety of activites including, finger painting, songs, and other visual activities.

There will also be a commemorative two-mile walk for autism Saturday, April 23, 2016 at Presque Isle State Park. The intent of the walk is to increase autism awareness, raise funds for projects and activities gagged towards individuals with autism in the community, and support national research.

For more information regarding this walk and other events please visit nwpa-asa.org/events/

For further information regarding autism please visit autismspeaks.org or nwspa-asa.org/


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