Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Understanding the "Spectrum"

When you have a child with autism you hear the word "spectrum" come up almost daily - it's something you become very familiar with. As science has studied autism over the years, it's become apparent that it is really an umbrella term for a group of developmental disorders, and when gathered together they are called Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD for short. Referred to as "autism" by most people, ASD is a broad range of developmental issues seen in three main areas: communication, social interaction and repetitive or unusual activities/interests.

Over the past year we've been very fortune to watch JD grow each day, further and further to the "right" of the spectrum. That means that although he was diagnosed with moderate autism at the age of two, he is progressing to mild autism and hopefully into asperger's syndrome by his elementary school years.

However that's not always the case. Some children do not progress, especially those in the severe category. Although they make remarkable progress in their ability to function independently, they will never "grow off" the spectrum. The struggles these families deal with are monumental and their ability to love, nurture and accept their children is truly a gift.

There are moments when I forget how far JD has come, but then I'll see a story of a family whose child is facing far more difficult challenges. My heart goes out to them, because even though are children are so different, we are all experiencing the same pain. As parents of children with autism it's our responsibility to support one another - no matter where your child falls on the spectrum - because we're in this together.

That's a big reason why I have this blog - to educate people on the huge "spectrum" of autism. There are so many children and families under this umbrella that mainstream society overlooks. The children that, on the outside look perfectly normal, but are dealing with sensory, emotional, physical, and speech issues. But at the same time not overlook the children who are severely autistic, the ones that may stand out in a crowd because they're flapping, twirling, or speaking in gibberish. These children are all special in so many ways, and as the number of children on the spectrum increase, so will the need for society to be aware and understanding. I think we're making huge strides in this area, but each day we have to continue to educate. That's what is going to make a difference in this world.

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