WPCCU Supports Autism Awareness Month in April

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Each year during the month of April, individuals and organizations across the globe celebrate Autism Awareness Month with events to educate and raise public awareness. Through our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives, WPCCU is dedicated to bringing education and awareness each month whether it be for a specific heritage, or awareness now and in the future.

The first time Autism Awareness was celebrated was in April of 1970. Since then, it has become the fastest growing diagnosis in the world. The diagnosis rate was 1 in every 2,000 children in the 1970’s and 80’s. Now the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network estimates about 1 in 36 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). 

This, of course, brings up two questions. Is autism truly on the rise, or do the new statistics reflect the growing awareness of the condition and the expanded definition; and, if autism is truly on the rise, as most experts believe, why?

The medical community is a very long way from agreeing on the answer, but this they do agree on—it’s a combination of genetics and environmental factors that may play a role. If one identical twin has autism, there is a 75% chance the other will be affected as well. Also, many U.S. couples have delayed childbearing, and the older ages of both the mother and the father have been linked with a higher risk of having children with autism. According to the journal, “Pediatrics,” with age could come increased risk for genetic mutations or problems. However, in reality specific genetic problems help explain only a small percentage of autism cases so far. Pesticide exposure and pollutants have also been linked. It truly is a mystery that is a long way from being solved. And when it is, there will not be one single explanation.

In recent years, major progress has been made in increasing awareness and acceptance of autism. We are shifting our perspective away from trying to cure or convert autistic people and instead focusing on accepting, supporting and including them.

What is autism?

So, what is autism? Autism, now referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a complex neurodevelopment disorder usually diagnosed during childhood. People with ASD may behave, interact and learn in ways that are different from other people. They may have trouble with social interactions and with interpreting and using nonverbal and verbal communications. The word “spectrum” is used because the symptoms and behaviors vary widely, from very mild to severe.

Asperger’s syndrome is now considered part of ASD, the milder part of the spectrum. People with Asperger’s have average to above average language and development skills, but still exhibit behaviors such as mild amounts of difficulty with socialization and social skills. They tend to have narrow ranges of interest, rigid routines and will often show repetitive behaviors (i.e. flapping of hands, running on their toes.)

Autism Awareness Month also highlights the connection between Autism Spectrum Disorder and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.) Up until recently, the medical community believed that people either had one of these disorders or the other. Now they believe that these disorders could co-exist. 

One of the most fascinating aspects of some people who have ASD is called “restrictive interests.”  Restrictive interests have to do with how the person with ASD has an intense passion for certain topics.  Whereas people without ASD often have a range of interests and may not have the focus to excel in one particular thing. The way many people with ASD interact socially also contributes to this ability to focus intensely on one thing. For instance, people with ASD tend to have fewer close friends, and these friends often have similar interests.

Famous People with Autism

The following is a list of famous people who either where diagnosed with ASD, stated they have ASD, or many historians believe it to be true.

  1. Albert Einstein
  2. Anthony Hopkins
  3. Tim Burton
  4. Charles Darwin
  5. Emily Dickenson
  6. Bobby Fisher
  7. Bill Gates
  8. Michelangelo
  9. Jerry Seinfeld
  10. Nikola Tesla
  11. Elon Musk
  12. Steven Spielberg
  13. Alfred Hitchcock
  14. Thomas Edison
  15. Benjamin Franklin
  16. Mozart
  17. Bob Dylan
  18. Carl Jung
  19. Henry Ford
  20. Temple Grandin
  21. James Taylor

Many people with ASD have accomplished amazing things and have touched the lives of so many people in a positive way. People with autism can live a fulfilling life, especially when they and those around them embrace who they are.

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