Autism Awareness

At Haynes Harbour, Inc. we welcome everyone.

Although our mission is centered around alleviating poverty, hunger, and homelessness, we also have a goal to reach vulnerable people in the community, providing a helping hand and impacting them enough to move forward in their lives in a new light.

Everyone is unique.

The month of April is National Autism Awareness Month. According to the Autism Society of America, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability. It affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others, and signs typically appear during early childhood.

The ASA provides us with signs to look out for in children:

  • Lack of or delay in spoken language

  • Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g. hand-flapping, twirling objects)

  • Little or no eye contact

  • Lack of interest in peer relationships

  • Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play

  • Persistent fixation on parts of objects

According to Autism Speaks, the possible signs of autism in individuals at any age include:

  • Avoiding eye contact and preferring to be alone

  • Struggling with understanding other people’s feelings

  • Remaining nonverbal or having delayed language development

  • Repeating words or phrases over and over (echolalia)

  • Getting upset by minor changes in routine or surroundings

  • Having highly restricted interests

  • Performing repetitive behaviors such as flapping, rocking or spinning

  • Having unusual and often intense reactions to sounds, smells, tastes, textures, lights and/or colors

We mention these signs to emphasize the importance of being sensitive to people with autism, even when you do not understand what he or she is going through. Being aware is the first step in understanding and communicating with these individuals.

Autism is treatable. Treatment and support vary with the person. Autism Speaks tells us therapies usually include a combination of behavioral therapy, speech-language therapy, occupational therapy, social skills training, and sometimes feeding therapy. Parents also play a role because they may receive training on how to work with their children at home. In an ideal situation, parents, teachers, and therapists work together to combine their approaches. When therapy isn’t enough, other options are considered, such as medications.

However, some adults with autism reject the idea of treatment. They embrace their conditions but require certain accommodations to help them with their challenges. Those severely affected may need vocational services and home- and community-based services. Help is always available and can also come in the form of a social worker or a mental health professional.

It’s clear that adults with autism face challenges socially, and this can disrupt their ability to maintain employment, establish and foster relationships, and fully achieve independence and quality of life. When this is not catered to it can lead to social isolation, anxiety, depression, and problems with emotional control.

Therefore, support is crucial.

Individuals diagnosed with autism can rest on either end of the spectrum, experiencing it either severely or barely. Although a set of symptoms that may identify autistic behavior exists, there is no clear-cut picture of what autism looks like; the symptoms vary with the person. According to an article by Robert Kunzig in Psychology Today, Autism: What's Sex Got to Do With It?, Asperger’s syndrome is one that lies at the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. It’s a mild form of autism in which individuals can function normally, but they have a hard time reading others’ emotions.

Psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen even goes on to say, “We all have some autistic traits. It’s just a matter of degree.”

He says those with autism don’t understand people well, but they are good at making sense of the world. For instance, some of them may have extremely low IQs and take up purposeless obsessions such as staring at the veins of a leaf for hours or memorizing a train schedule.

We are all human. And we all walk different paths. Having autism doesn’t necessarily make someone different; it just makes this person special. Some of the population we encounter may have developmental disabilities such as autism. If we want to reach other or simply understand them, it is key that we educate ourselves first.

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