Community to gather, advocate for autism


Many people around the world advocated together to raise awareness for those with autism in honor of World Autism Awareness Day on April 2.
But for the whole month of April, communities will continue to “light it up blue” for more people to understand those who have autism since it is National Autism Awareness Month.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior.
ASD is becoming a continually growing disorder in the U.S. According to Autism Speaks, around one in 59 children were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in 2018.
Autism has increased 15 percent since 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As autism continues to become a more prevalent disorder in our country, people like Austin Pasche, a freshman psychology major, said it is important to know how to interact with those who have autism.
“I have a friend that I grew up with who has autism. They are still people and need to be treated as such,” Pasche said.
And while those who have autism should be treated just like anyone else, they do have challenges that most people don’t have, according to speech-language pathology professor David Irwin.
“ASD is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that has challenges in three areas: social interaction, social communication and restricted and repetitive behaviors,” said Irwin, the program director of the Autism Center at ULM
But, there are many misconceptions that people have about autism, according to Dava Johnson, a senior toxicology major. One of these misconceptions is that they lack the ability to feel emotions.
According to the Aging and Disability Services Division-State of Nevada, individuals that have autism feel as much or even more empathy than others. However, at times it can be hard for them to express it or express it in a “not-so-typical” way.
“They don’t need to be cured; they don’t lack empathy. Allow them to be themselves, and don’t try to control their every move,” Johnson said.
While those with ASD may not see the world as most people do, Irwin said this doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
“The person with ASD doesn’t perceive the world like most. It is not a wrong way of perceiving the world, just a different way. At the Autism Center, we work with them to focus upon their strengths and how they can be supported in society,” Irwin said.
According to Irwin, the Autism Center provides evaluations for ASD, treatment for children and adults with ASD and professional development workshops for ULM students, faculty and professionals.
If you want to raise awareness about autism or advocate for those with autism, you can donate to organizations like Autism Speaks, share the hashtag #lightitupblue on your social media or wear blue for those with autism.
Also, there is a Superheroes for Autism 5K Run/Walk Saturday, April 13, at Kiroli Park in West Monroe. This event will have multiple booths to learn about ASD and how to get involved.