April marks Autism Awareness Month


April is Autism Awareness Month.

“One in 45 children, ages three through 17 have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD),” according to Autism Speaks, autismspeaks.org.

Autism is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the country. It cannot be cured.

Some characteristics of autism are: wanting to be alone, avoiding eye contact, difficulty socializing, getting upset over minor changes, have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or their own and more.

“I’ve been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome since the age of three,” said Christopher Barth a member of an autism chatroom on healthfulchat.org, who was willing to share his story in an email response.  “As a kid, I had trouble socializing, I did certain repetitive behaviors like repeating a part of a video or song over and over again and to put it short, I was different, for lack of a better word.”

“I’ve had a somewhat rough childhood because of my problems alone, but during that time I learned basic life skills like making my own food and cleaning my own clothes without outsiders telling me how to do so,” he said. “High school felt so much better. While I still disliked school I learned a lot and I know how to manage my time and work hard in general.”

Barth graduated high school with an overall GPA of 3.2 and socialized with many people along the way.  

“I’ve also made so many friends in high school because I learned that I really could connect with people,” said Barth.

Autism not only affects the person living with it but the whole family as well.

“As an older sister who has a younger brother living with autism April is an important month for my family and others around the world because it gives us the chance to speak about autism to those who are not as aware,” said Sandra Stevens, a Stockton resident.  “It can be difficult at times, it affects us all, there are good days and bad days sometimes there are tantrums over the smallest of things and the smallest of changes.  There’s always some concerns about school and socializing with other kids and how the future might turn out but my parents and I do as much as we can to help.”

On whether more can be done to help autistic children Stevens said: “I think instead of seeing the problems of autism you should learn to accept it and how to move forward.  It’s hard to do but that’s one way.”

It is important to show support throughout this month so more people can continue to share stories to inspire others and be accepted.

To help support families living with autism you can go to www.autismspeaks.org to make a donation.

To help raise money for families there will be a walk in San Jose located on 1650 Senter Rd on Apr. 22.  There will also be a walk later in the year at the Modesto Junior College on Oct.21.

For more information on the walks and different events go to www.autismspeaks.org.