Medical Monday Autism

Published: Apr. 12, 2022 at 12:40 PM EDT
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PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) -From awareness to acceptance. That’s the shift the autism community is pushing for. In March of 2021 the Autism Society of America announced the formal shift from April being Autism Awareness Month to Autism Acceptance Month. The goal of this shift is to foster acceptance to ignite change through improved support and opportunities in education, employment, accessible housing, affordable health care and comprehensive long-term services.

Amanda Larrabee, an Occupational Therapist at Northern Light AR Gould Hospital, says “There’s a lot of autistic adults coming out now, saying that we need to be represented for who we are and they are really on the forefront and they are the experts of what it’s like to be autistic.”

Autism refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, and speech and nonverbal communication, according to the autism speaks website.

Amanda Hotham, a Clinical Fellow Speech Language Pathologist at Northern Light AR Gould Hospital, says “Typically the assumption is that it’s a child development disorder, but really it’s throughout the lifespan.”

There is no cure for autism, but once diagnosed, there are treatment options.

Hotham says, “What’s going to help with autism is early intervention and also treatment. So, that could be speech to language treatment, could be occupational therapy treatment, they also have behavior therapy, usually maybe social work for families who are going through the process of getting a diagnosis of autism.”

The autism community is shifting away from Autism Awareness month, changing it to Autism Acceptance month and that isn’t the only change they are looking to make. Autism is known as a spectrum disorder, diagnosing people from low to high functioning.

Larrabee adds, “There is actually some evidence coming out from some of those autistic voices that are saying we should get rid of the low functioning and high functioning labels because again that kind of stigmatizes what they’re capable of and every single person has areas that they excel in and things that are harder for them.”

Larrabee says while there is more acceptance, there is still room for more education and understanding, and for that it’s the autism community that should take the lead.

Larrabee adds, “Having that awareness and that foresight to be like, you are the expert, what do you need, what can I assist with. Because I don’t claim to know all the answers about autism. It’s really, how can I help you specifically with the trouble areas, the problem areas, the things that are really challenging for you. And thinking more of it as a support.”

For more information or if you feel your child should be tested for autism, you can reach out to your primary care provider.

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