By John Smart, LSCSW, Behavioral Health Clinician
What is Autism?
Autism is formally defined as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a developmental disability characterized by social communication challenges and restricted or repetitive behaviors. Though they may go unrecognized, the symptoms of ASD begin in early childhood and persist into adulthood.
Having symptoms of autism does not mean someone necessarily has the diagnosis of ASD. The diagnosis of ASD is only made when the symptoms of autism cause significant impairment of social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. ASD now includes conditions previously classified as separate diagnoses: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, and Asperger syndrome.
What is Autism Awareness Month about?
Autism Awareness Month, also identified by the Autism Society as Autism Acceptance Month, is a time to recognize that “The experience of Autism is not one thing. It is many things. It’s dreams, talents, relationships, victories, hurdles, and everything in between.”
Autism is not an identity; it is an experience that may or may not deeply impact a person’s life. When we look beyond the diagnosis, difficulties, and barriers that may be experienced by a person with autism, we can see strengths, talents, interests, challenges, and aspirations – unifying characteristics of our human experience.
If you need help for yourself or a loved one regarding identifying symptoms or diagnosis of autism, speak to your primary care provider. You may also contact Behavioral Health services at Health Partnership Clinic for assistance with accessing resources. The Behavioral Health Team can be reached at 913-730-3664. For more information you may want to explore the Autism Society and the National Institute of Mental Health.