Awareness important to people with autism

By Jesse O. Walls

With one in 88 children being affected, autism is a rising condition in not only the United States but all over the world.  As numbers rise, it is important to not only understand what autism is but be aware of what it means to individuals who fall into the autism spectrum.

In 2012, President Barrack Obama declared April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day, in recognition of the individuals who have autism.

“As a Nation, we share a responsibility to ensure persons living with ASDs (autism spectrum disorders) have the opportunity to pursue their full measure of happiness and achieve their greatest potential,” wrote the president in a proclamation released on April 2, 2012.  “As new policies and bold actions break down old barriers and reshape attitudes, we move closer to a world free of discrimination and full of understanding for our family members and friends living with autism.”

Autism or ASD affects many components of an individual’s life, and many individuals with autism display difficulties with social and communication skills.  According to an article on, around 25 percent of people living with autism are nonverbal, though they can learn to communicate in other ways.

“You can teach children to talk through pictures or augmented devices,” stated Jamie Emery, applied behavior analysis and autism instructor.  The devices used for communication, she continued, could have a multitude of buttons (two or more) to allow non-verbal persons to request items or put together sentences.

A recent government survey shows that one in 50 school-age children across the U.S. falls under the ASD umbrella, according to an article on  “By definition, symptoms of autism must be present by age 3, affect a child’s communication and social skills, and lead to restricted or repetitive behaviors such as rocking or hand-flapping,” states USA Today.

So what is the importance of autism awareness?

After the Dec. 14, 2012 grade school massacre in Newtown, Conn., many speculations had been made that the shooter, Adam Lanza, had Asperger’s Syndrome, which falls under the autism umbrella. Similar speculations and reports had been made about James Holmes after he opened fire in a Colorado movie theatre. Such reports and speculations, which were never proven, have given autism a bad name, causing there to be drastic actions towards the autistic community because of the lack of awareness.

As a result of the Newtown shooting, a Facebook page had been created (which was deleted shortly after) called the “Asperger’s Prevention Campaign: Stop the Slayings”, stated an article by Lisa Reicosky for the GateHouse News Service.  The page had posted that once they received 50 “likes”, they would find a child with autism and set him on fire.

These speculations, as well as the reaction demonstrated with this Facebook page, reveal there needs to be more done to make people aware of what autism is.

“Autism, in its purest form, does not indicate a propensity for violence,” commented Angi DiSpina-Shumate, of the Idea House, in Reicosky’s article, “…but the one thing that’s being put out there is that they need to be feared.”

People with autism have different needs than those without, and at times people who fall into the autism spectrum can appear strange, especially to those who do not know or understand what autism is.

“I think that people who have ASD…don’t get the credit they deserve for being able to think,” said Ginger Hayes, a psychology major who is currently working toward her applied behavior analysis (ABA) certificate.

“People definitely need to understand that we’re not idiots,” stated Logan Ely, a theatre major diagnosed with Asperger’s. “To me, [being autistic] means my mind works differently.”

As the number of people diagnosed with autism continues to grow, it is apparent that there is not only a need for awareness, but a need for tolerance and acceptance.

“We must support children and adults living with ASDs,” commented President Obama in an email.  “I will continue to work with Congress, experts, and families to improve Federal and State ASD programs.  We remain committed to leveling the playing field for all Americans with disabilities.”


Originally posted on April 27, 2013.
Revised on Sept. 30, 2013 due to receiving a response from U.S. President, Barack Obama.