Staff members of Charlotte Hungerford Hospital’s Center For Youth & Families dressed in blue for the United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day (April 2) to kick off Autism Awareness Month to help raise awareness about autism. This is the ninth year that the Center has celebrated Autism Awareness month along with the growth of their “Connections Program” for children diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
The campaign, called “Light it up In Blue,” is celebrated by the international autism community, in commemoration of those with autism by wearing blue. Many iconic landmarks, hotels, sporting venues, concert halls, museums, bridges and retail stores around the world are among the hundreds of thousands of homes and communities that take part.
The Connections Program, at the Center for Youth and Families, serves children and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders in our community through its current outpatient program which includes diagnostic assessment, treatment, and advocacy services. They provide individual, group, and family therapy. The program features specialized social skills groups and behavioral therapy with the child and caregivers.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a general term used to describe a complex neuro-developmental brain disorder caused by a combination of genetic and environmental influences. Today, it is estimated 1 in 59 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum, a 1000 percent increase in the past 40 years that is only partly explained by improved diagnosis. Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S. that is now reaching epidemic classification. Boys are 4.5 times more likely than girls to receive a diagnosis of autism. An estimated 3 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide are affected by autism.
One reason for the striking increase in children being diagnosed can be attributed to early detection screenings and awareness campaigns. These initiatives have been funded by federal and state governments and agencies to improve public awareness and professional awareness about ASD and to nurture a statewide, culturally competent, family-centered system of care for all stakeholders who with children and adolescents with ASD. Services and supports for adults with ASD are still lacking despite the focus on ASD being a lifelong condition.
Early detection and treatment are essential to good prognosis. Recommended treatments include behavioral therapy, sensory integration, cognitive, speech, and social interventions. Individuals with Autism are also known to be exceptional or gifted in many ways.
“The only truly scary thing is the unknown. Autism doesn’t have to be scary–become aware, become informed!” says Stuart Duncan, who writes about Autism from a father’s point of view.
Contact the center for more information on their “Connections” program at 860-489-3391. For more information about autism, visit www.autismspeaks.org.