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April is Autism Awareness month so I though I might share some things that might help you understand what autism is today.

Autism has always fascinated me, probably because I have some of the traits myself. But the diagnosis wasn't around when I was a kid and for that, I am eternally grateful. My parents raised me old school and a lot of the tendencies I had were changed because of it, just like any other child. Only, my traits weren't as extreme as some of the children today.

The CDC has come out with a new study on autism. They claim that 1 in 88 children have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. But, this doesn't give us any real numbers to go by because many cases go untreated and some people are never even made aware that they fell into the spectrum. While many more cases are diagnosed now than they were 10 or even 20 years ago, this might not indicate that the numbers of people with autism have increased. Rather, more people are getting treated for it and the difference between those 2 concepts is huge. Now for those of you who don't know what autism is, or anything else about it, let's give a brief rundown.

Autism is basically a collection of behavioral traits that fall within the spectrum to be classified as autism. The majority of behaviors having to do with autism are social. But these are only behaviors. Those are symptoms. Which is why autism isn't "cured" by modern medicine, much like the common cold isn't. We treat the symptoms because we don't know what the origin is.

One of the hardest parts of autism for the one afflicted is the heightened sensory perception. The more heightened the senses are, the easier it is for the person to become over-stimulated. Just think about one sense. If you have a heightened sense of smell, you probably avoid certain areas because those areas are over-stimulating to your sense of smell. Now, imagine you are a child with limited control over your environment and not enough history behind you to be able to manage those overwhelming feelings. Now multiply that times 10 because most children with autism have enhanced perceptions in more than one area and they don't have the social skills to deal with those perceptions the way they are "supposed to".

Treatments for autism range from a completely organic diet (which I personally have seen work miracles), to an entire smorgasbord of medications and behavioral modification programs. Is there a cure? Well, personally I'm not convinced there's even a disorder. From where I sit, it looks like a clear cut case of evolution. But, as far as society is concerned in the way that they view autism, yes there is a cure in forms ranging from growing out of autism to lifelong medications and everything in between. And yet, for some, there is never a cure because autism is really a problem more for society than for the one who has it.  In fact, personal notes from people who have autism tend to indicate that they wish "norms" would just leave them alone. Some don't even see any reason why people want to cure them.

It's Autism Awareness month. So, if you don't do anything proactive to participate in it, at least educate yourself about it. Stop staring when a child has a meltdown in a store. Yes, having a public meltdown is horrible manners, but your gawking and commentary aren't any better. And for those of you parents who have children with autism, make this the month to focus on the positive aspects of autism. Try to separate the autism from the child. It's just one facet of who they are and sometimes their behavior is just the behavior of an ill-mannered child rather than the behavior of someone with autism.

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