April Is Autism Awareness Month

Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder, is a neurological disorder that effects a child’s development. It is characterized by a difficulty with social interaction and communication, and by restricted and/or repetitive behavior. According to the CDC, it effects approximately 1 in 54 children. That’s over 3M Americans. It’s 4 times more common among boys than girls. And it occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. Autism is also a Chronic illness.

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When I was in college, many moons ago, I had a required reading assignment that fascinated me. The book was Dibs: In Search of Self, written by clinical psychologist and author Virginia Axline. I would highly recommend it to anyone. This was possibly the first documentation that opened the door, examined and detailed what a child can accomplish despite setbacks and scorn. And while no two children, with or without Autism, are alike … the book offers an excellent insight into their lives.

The signs of Autism often appear by age two. Each child usually exhibits a unique pattern of behavior as well as a level of severity. Some autistic children have difficulty learning. Others have normal to high levels of intelligence. As they grow, it’s possible for the child to become more socially engaged. He or she may also show fewer disturbances in their behavior. And those with the least severe problems often lead normal lives.

Children and adults with Autism have much to offer the world. If we just take a moment to watch, listen and admire their abilities. They learn differently. They are socially awkward. But we are all different. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Once we as a society embrace that, we are one step closer to understanding Autism. They have the ability to be creative, smart and productive. But they need to be nurtured differently. Consider the following well-known individuals in history who lived with Autism:

  • Hans Christian Andersen – Children’s Author
  • Lewis Carroll – Author of “Alice in Wonderland”
  • Charles Darwin – Naturalist, Geologist, and Biologist
  • Temple Grandin – Animal Scientist
  • Steve Jobs – Former CEO of Apple
  • Tim Burton – Movie Director
  • Michelangelo – Sculptor, Painter, Architect, Poet
  • Bobby Fischer – Chess Grandmaster
  • Emily Dickinson – Poet
  • Thomas Jefferson – President

Try to imagine the world without their accomplishments. I can’t. 

Autism is not a new health issue. Obviously, it has been around for a while. Yet, misconceptions still exist about the diagnosis and those who live with the condition. We can change that. April is Autism Awareness Month. If you or a loved one has Autism, read the reference links below. Learn more. Most importantly, share the information!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/185394

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/autism-spectrum-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20352928

Learning Styles & Autism

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/autism-spectrum-disorders

https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism

National Autism Awareness Month

https://www.appliedbehavioranalysisprograms.com/historys-30-most-inspiring-people-on-the-autism-spectrum/

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/73860.Dibs_in_Search_of_Self

*Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash

Your Privacy, Your Chronic Illness & Your Job

Don’t let anyone fool you. When you live with a Chronic illness, you do a lot of thinking. You make a lot of decisions. Cool tee shirt aside, life really is filled with tough choices. And if you haven’t juggled many in your past, a Chronic illness will change that quickly. Which doctor do you trust? Which treatment do you choose? Which medication/s will work best? And aside from these obvious questions, you also wonder about your privacy. Yes, HIPAA is a great thing. And there are similar protections in place abroad, i.e. PIPEDA, Directive on Data Protection. But, outside of medical community, who do you share your illness with? Who do you entrust with that personal information? How much is, well, too much?

Let’s start with your family and close friends. They are usually part of your support system. And, yes, they need to know about your diagnosis. Especially, those who are closest to you. A strong support system will help you to manage your condition more effectively. Providing them with additional information is also helpful, i.e. the name of your doctor, your medications, etc. Next, is your workplace. And that’s an entirely different animal!

Legally, you are not required to disclose a Chronic illness to your employer. An employer hires you to do a job. If you are capable of doing that job, you are fulfilling your end of the deal. This also holds true, if you are seeking employment. On the other hand, some say the added stress of trying to conceal their condition was/is frustrating and difficult. There is no wrong answer, here. It really depends on what you are comfortable with. You may choose to discuss your illness with HR, but not your co-workers. That too is okay. Nobody wants to be gossip fodder for the break-room. This is about your health and your privacy.

Many patients learn what their group health plans offer, after they have been diagnosed. Better late than never, I guess. When you are living with good health, you are truly experiencing a blessing. But knowing your health coverage is also the peace of mind that will help you to sleep at night. Take a few minutes to actually get those facts. And if you have never taken the time to acquaint yourself with Labor Law, here are two key pieces of legislation to start with: The Family Medical Leave Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act. Living with a Chronic illness, you may need to use one or both at some point. Understanding them is crucial. Sadly, disability discrimination still exists in our society. And many Chronic illnesses can lead to a disability. If you ever feel your employer is harassing you, or is discriminating against you, due to your Chronic illness … you can contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or EEOC. Know your rights. They exist to protect you.

Last, but not least, go out and LIVE! Don’t allow your disease to define you. It isn’t what you are, it is just a part of who you are. So, make plans. Work. Travel. Finish Grad School. Buy a home. Start a family. Set goals. Dare to dream. The choices are waiting and they’re all yours!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/security/laws-regulations/index.html

https://www.atlantic.net/hipaa-compliant-hosting/beyond-hipaa-international-health-data-protection-europe-canada/

https://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/

https://www.ada.gov/2010_regs.htm

https://www.eeoc.gov/facts/ada18.html

https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/disability.cfm

*Photo by Jose Llamas on Unsplash