April is Autism Awareness Month
4/7/2022 by Jessica M. Davis, M.D.
April is Autism Awareness Month, a month to promote acceptance for the neurodevelopmental differences that occur in 1 in every 54 children in the U.S. Minnesota has the third-highest prevalence rate of autism spectrum disorder in 8-year-old children among all states.
Autism spectrum disorder is a complex, lifelong developmental condition that typically appears during early childhood. It can affect a person's social skills, communication, relationships and self-regulation.
During Autism Awareness Month, be mindful of how difficult the last two years have been for people with autism and their families. People with autism experience the world around them differently. However, the characteristics of those with autism can include difficulty with changes in routine, sensory sensitivities, and social and communication differences. The COVID-19 pandemic has been full of adaptations to daily life — from distance learning, to wearing masks, to fewer social interactions.
So what can help people with autism spectrum disorder in uncertain times?
Consistency and predictability make life easier to navigate. During the pandemic, parents created new routines for their children. For younger children with autism, several organizations have created visual ways and social stories to help them understand new routines. These resources help children learn about social distancing and hand-washing, for instance. For older children, the pandemic may create more anxiety around germs and infection. It also may be challenging for people with autism to relearn social interactions with peers. Here is a good example of a social story.
Jessica M. Davis, M.D., is a pediatrician in Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson's Division of Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. She has a special interest in the care of children with autism spectrum disorder.