For many people it takes a lifetime to find their purpose.  For me, that purpose presented its self when I was in kindergarten.  Of course I didn’t realize at the time that becoming friends with Sam would be my introduction to autism.  I only knew that Sam needed a friend.  I don’t remember the exact moment I met Sam but I do remember helping Sam and the other students get along.

Sam moved away during our 2nd grade year and it wasn’t until middle school that I recognized I had a natural talent for working with the students with special needs especially those with autism.  In honor of April being autism awareness month, I want to take this opportunity to help you understand the amazing world of autism and ask for your support.

What is autism?  Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are general terms for a group of disorders that affect social, communication and behavioral development.  People who have autism/ASD are affected in different ways and symptoms can range from mild to severe.  They have deficiencies in verbal and nonverbal communication, social interaction and play activities.

Autism now affects 1 in 88 children. It is 4-5 times more likely to affect males than females. This year more children will be diagnosed with autism than those diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, leukemia and AIDS combined.  About 1.5 million people in the US have some form of autism.  In South Carolina over 42, 000 people have autism with many still undiagnosed.

The causes of autism are unknown and currently there is no cure.  However, there is hope. Early diagnosis and treatment are keys to success.  The most obvious signs and symptoms of autism appear at 2 to 3 years of age.  Eighty percent of individuals with autism learn to speak with the help of therapy and with vocational training; these individuals with autism can lead productive lives.  Current statistics report 47.7% of youth with autism spectrum disorders work for pay.

How can you help someone with autism?  A simple and easy way is by going to theautismsite.com and clicking every day.  It’s quick and it’s free.  Sponsors of the website donate money for therapy and research.   Since June 2011 they have donate 1,805 hours of therapy.  It takes is less than one minute of your day to make a difference in the life of someone with autism and their families.

To learn more about autism visit these websites:

http://scautism.org/   The South Carolina Autism Society

http://www.autismspeaks.org/  Autism Speaks

Sincerely,

S.B. Kreidler

Ms. Hartsville Teen