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What You Need to Know: National Autism Awareness Month

By Martha Michael

National Autism Awareness Month

National Autism Awareness Month is a message to the world that celebrating differences will contribute to the well-being of individuals everywhere, including those on the autism spectrum. It is the fastest-growing developmental disorder in America, according to the Autism Society, with 1 in 59 children receiving a diagnosis today, up from 1 in 125 children a decade ago. There are currently more than 3.5 million individuals with autism in the United States.

Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, is characterized by problems with social interaction, including challenges with both speech and nonverbal communication. Individuals with autism tend to adhere to repetitive patterns of behavior and avoid eye contact, but the symptoms vary in severity.

Leaders in the autism advocacy movement want communities to foster a more inclusive society by building more supportive experiences for residents. They seek to promote empathy, acceptance and understanding by educating the public about autism.

Diversity -- by acknowledging people who are different as well as adopting a wide range of health habits -- is an important feature in drawing attention to the challenges of people on the autism spectrum, as well as providing the healthiest approach to improving their quality of life.

Autism in Childhood

Thanks to the work of advocacy groups and professionals in the field, parents of autistic children have an expanding range of resources for successful living. The Autism Society has a number of tips for families to help their autistic kids thrive.

  • Provide structure and safety
  • Connect non-verbally
  • Create a personalized autism treatment plan
  • Find help and support

Reaching out for adequate support is a key component in maximizing a child’s opportunities for wellness, but the same is true for the health of other family members. Everyone benefits from a routine that includes exercise, social interaction, chiropractic care, and healthy dietary choices.

There were 29 studies looking at the benefits of exercise among autistic kids who were analyzed by a team of experts at the University of Delaware. An article by the nonprofit group Autism Speaks shares the findings, which include many of the same benefits that can be applied to children of every circumstance.

“Youth who participated in physical activity programs designed for individuals with autism showed significant gains in their social and communication skills,” the article says. “When designed appropriately, physical activity programs can provide a fun, safe setting for interacting with other children. In other words, they can offer excellent opportunities for practicing social skills. In addition, activities involving animals -- such as horseback riding -- provide children with a fun way to interact nonverbally as well as verbally.”

When an autistic child is encouraged to maintain a lifestyle that involves the same balance as the rest of society, the nature of their healthcare needs is similar. They have the same chance of spraining an ankle, contracting a cold, or developing scoliosis. Thus, they need the same range of options for treatment.

Early detection of injury is always a good idea, and when your chiropractor has a baseline of your child’s health, physical changes are easily spotted. Children on all points on the spectrum can benefit from chiropractic care, both for routine maintenance and treatment for injuries.

Autism in Adulthood

Though many think of the disorder as a childhood condition, autism is something that lasts your entire life. And just as all people’s needs change over time, an individual on the autism spectrum should be aware of healthy lifestyle habits as they age.

Just as typically-abled individuals look for a preferred form of exercise, people with autism can find physical activities to serve their purpose, taking into account their physical or emotional limitations. Someone who is uncomfortable with crowds, for instance, may choose tennis over water polo, soccer, or basketball.

There can be differences that create challenges, however. Thanks to longitudinal studies, gerontology experts are becoming more aware of the health problems that some autistic individuals experience.

According to an article on the Autism Speaks website, there are several comorbidity conditions which are frequently seen in individuals with autism. They include:

  • Sleep issues
  • Epilepsy
  • Chronic constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Chronic overeating

Because of their inherent tendency toward inflexibility, autistic individuals may also be prone to depression and anxiety. One of the most successful psychosocial interventions is to maintain a predictable schedule, which improves their quality of life when healthy habits are baked in.

The goal for National Autism Awareness Month is to raise awareness about the signs of autism and provide resources through information and referrals, digital and print materials, and community partnerships dedicated to building inclusive experiences. You help them achieve their goal when you learn more about their challenges.

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