April is Autism Awareness Month

On April 1, 2015, the White House released a Presidential Proclamation from President Obama:

“On World Autism Awareness Day, our Nation recognizes all those around the globe who live on the autism spectrum.We celebrate the countless ways they strengthen our communities and enrich our world – and we reaffirm their fundamental rights to participate fully in society, live with respect, and achieve their greatest potential.

In the United States, millions of adults and young people live with autism spectrum disorder, including 1 out of every 68 children.They are our colleagues, classmates, friends, and loved ones, and they each have something to contribute to the American story.In large cities and small towns, individuals with autism live independent and productive lives, and our Nation is better because of their unique talents and perspectives.Their example reminds us that all people have inherent dignity and worth, and that everyone deserves a fair shot at opportunity.

My Administration is committed to helping Americans with autism fulfill their potential by ensuring access to the resources and programs they need.The Affordable Care Act prohibits companies from denying health insurance because of pre-existing conditions such as autism, and the law also requires most insurance plans to cover preventive services — including autism and developmental screenings for young children — without copays.Last year, I was proud to sign the Autism CARES Act of 2014, which bolstered training and educational opportunities for professionals serving children or adults on the autism spectrum.And as part of the BRAIN Initiative, we continue to invest in innovative research that aims to revolutionize our understanding of conditions like autism and improve the lives of all who live with them.

The greatness of our Nation lies in the diversity of our people.When more Americans are able to pursue their full measure of happiness, it makes our Union more perfect and uplifts us all.Today, let us honor advocates, professionals, family members, and all who work to build brighter tomorrows alongside those with autism.Together, we can create a world free of barriers to inclusion and full of understanding and acceptance of the differences that make us strong.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 2, 2015, World Autism Awareness Day.I encourage all Americans to learn more about autism and what they can do to support individuals on the autism spectrum and their families.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.”

President Obama proclaimed April 2, 2015 as World Autism Awareness Day.The entire month of April is dedicated to Autism Awareness.It is a wonderful opportunity for organizations and the general population to promote autism awareness, acceptance, as well as draw attention to the population of children and adults diagnosed with autism each year.Whether it is presidential/congressional declarations, discussions on the internet, local events hosted by organizations, schools and families, there are many events being held during the month to spread awareness.   For NJ Top Docs, the matter hits close to home.Cherry Dumapit of the client relations department is a proud mom to CJ, a ten year old who was diagnosed with PDD-NOS when he was only five.

As per the Autism Speaks Organization’s website, “PDD-NOS stands for Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified. Psychologists and psychiatrists sometimes use the term “pervasive developmental disorders” and “autism spectrum disorders” (ASD) interchangeably. As such, PDD-NOS became the diagnosis applied to children or adults who are on the autism spectrum but do not fully meet the criteria for another ASD such as autistic disorder (sometimes called “classic” autism) or Asperger Syndrome.

Like all forms of autism, PDD-NOS can occur in conjunction with a wide spectrum of intellectual ability. Its defining features are significant challenges in social and language development.

Some developmental health professionals refer to PDD-NOS as “subthreshold autism.” In other words, it’s the diagnosis they use for someone who has some but not all characteristics of autism or who has relatively mild symptoms. For instance, a person may have significant autism symptoms in one core area such as social deficits, but mild or no symptoms in another core area such as restricted, repetitive behaviors.”

CJ says, “I am in the spectrum of Autism. I am in fourth grade.I enjoy school.I attend Reading and Math with my friends who need extra help on those subjects.The problem I have is I read slower than others and I need extra time to finish my Math work.I have a teacher’s aide who is awesome.She helps me with things I am having trouble with.My favorite classes are Science and Health.I love studying for those classes.This year, my best friend and I participated in the Science Fair.We did such a great job and enjoyed working together.I do very well in school.I get a lot of A’s and sometimes B’s.”

“Sometimes a child with learning and behavioral differences doesn’t meet all the diagnostic criteria for Asperger Syndrome or Autism, which can lead to a diagnosis of PDD-NOS.Below are some characteristics of PDD-NOS:

  • Atypical or inappropriate social behavior
  • Uneven skill development (motor, sensory, visual-spatial organizational, cognitive, social, academic, behavioral)
  • Poorly developed speech and language comprehension skills
  • Difficulty with transitions
  • Deficits in nonverbal and/or verbal communication
  • Increased or decreased sensitivities to taste, sight, sound, smell and/or touch
  • Perseverative (repetitive or ritualistic) behaviors (i.e., opening and closing doors repeatedly or switching a light on and off )
  • ( http://www.brainbalancecenters.com/blog/2012/02/signs-and-symptoms-of-pdd-nos/)”

Like CJ said, he sometimes needs extra time to complete his reading or math assignments.This a common symptom of PDD-NOS.In addition; CJ has difficulty with transitions, he says he doesn’t like surprises.“It sometimes makes me cry and anxious.I don’t like loud noises, especially thunder.It scares me.My ears can hear almost everything, and that can be a distraction.When unplanned things happen, I get upset.But lately, I have been better.I am slowly learning how to control my feelings.There are a lot of things that my classmates and friends can do that I can, too.But, there are a few things I struggle with.My mom said it’s because my brain works differently than theirs.And that’s not a bad thing.It makes me unique”.

Interesting that CJ would use the word “unique”, because it just happens be the one word that Autism Society has chosen to lead their autism awareness social media campaign.Autism Society is an organization that promotes autism awareness through their various events, internet campaigns, and online presence.The website says, “Be unique, be you! #AutismUniquelyYou is a month-long social media campaign celebrating self-identity and acceptance and appreciation for how each of us does our part to make the world a better place for autism.It’s a simple concept – hand painting for a cause and raising awareness for the Autism Society.The campaign encourages people to paint their hands, make a video or take a picture of a unique product, share it on social media, urge others to do the same (http://www.autism-society.org)!”

“The Autism Awareness puzzle ribbon is the most recognized symbol of the autism community in the world.Autism prevalence is now one in every 68 children in America.People show support for those with autism by wearing ribbon pins, placing magnets on their cars, placing badges on their blogs and even posting an image of one on their social media sites (http://www.autism-society.org).”

CJ may only be ten years old, but NJ Top Docs (along with his friends and family) is proud of his accomplishments at such a young age.CJ says, “At home, I love to bake and cook.I want to go to culinary school one day and bake yummy cakes.On Saturday mornings, my dad and I cook.I love that we do that all the time.I am able to do small chores at home.My biggest responsibility is taking the garbage to the dumpster.When my mom is cleaning the house, I stay with my sister and play with her.I also have to change the channels of the shows she’s watching on the TV.Because she can’t read yet, I read things for her.Autism is something I’ll have for the rest of my life.But my mommy and daddy are doing their best that I get all the help I can get.They let me do a lot of activities so I can be more social, and I am!I am in Gym Club, I rock climb, I go bowling with my friends and I am also an altar boy.I started playing baseball, too.”CJ’s positive perspective is certainly to be admired.“My wish is that more people would understand my world.I want to drive a nice car someday.I want to be a great chef.I am just like any ten year old boy.I like to play video games, watch baseball and hockey.My reaction to some things is not what is always expected.But I am glad my mom and dad understand me.I am happy they help me make things happen.I just need extra help and time.I am different and that’s okay.”Cheers to you, CJ!Thanks for helping us spread Autism Awareness this month.