by Hollie McAfee

With 1 in 88 children affected by Autism, chances are most of us know someone with the disorder.  According to Autism Speaks, an organization that builds awareness and raises funds for Autism research, “Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development.  These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.”

I have two nephews on the Autism Spectrum.  Both of them are highly functional, meaning they are able to talk and are successful at learning coping mechanisms for their social challenges.  I would describe them both as somewhat “quirky” and fascinating conversationalists.  They have a unique way of viewing the world around them in a way that I don’t.

There are many varying degrees of functionality, some kids are nonverbal and unable to live independently.  Diagnoses of Autism are growing at an alarming rate, and the costs to families and social services programs are overwhelming, as children require ongoing medical intervention and additional services at school.

The cause of Autism is unclear, but research is indicating that “most cases of autism…appear to be caused by a combination of Autism risk genes and environmental factors influencing early brain development.

Treatment for Autism is as widely varied as the children who need it, but the general consensus is that early intervention is the key to success.

To support Autism Awareness and research, we are taking part in the “Light It Up Blue” campaign today.  Our signs will be blue tonight in honor of the event, and I’ve got my porch light burning blue all day.  Join us in this by shining a blue light, but more importantly, take some time to get to know someone with Autism.  You will be surprised at how much you will learn.