April is Autism Awareness Month, a time when we all come together to support those living with autism and help increase understanding and awareness of this neurological disorder, as well as impacts on mental health. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is now the most common developmental disability in the United States, affecting 1 in 68 children. According to the CDC, 2.2% of adults in the United States are also diagnosed with autism.

This month, we want to provide you with some tips on observing Autism Awareness Month and advocating for more acceptance of people living with autism.

Bringing awareness to autism helps reduce stigma

There are several reasons why bringing awareness to autism is essential. First, it helps to educate people about the condition. This increased understanding can help to reduce the stigma that often surrounds autism. Additionally, greater awareness can lead to more opportunities for research into effective treatments and interventions. Finally, increasing public knowledge about autism can help improve support and mental health services for people living with the condition.

What are some of the unique mental health challenges autistic individuals and their families face?

One of the most significant challenges that autistic individuals face is communication difficulties. Many autistic individuals have difficulty understanding and using verbal communication, making it difficult for them to interact with others. In addition, many autistic individuals also have sensory processing issues, which can make it difficult for them to process information from their environment. This can lead to a feeling of being overwhelmed or overloaded. It can also lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Another challenge that autistic individuals face is difficulty with social interactions. Many autistic individuals have difficulty understanding social cues and body language, making it difficult to interact with others. In addition, many autistic individuals also have difficulty with executive functioning skills, which can make it challenging to plan and organize tasks. This can lead to difficulty with things like completing schoolwork or holding down a job which can, in turn, lead to long-term mental health symptoms.

Finally, another challenge that autistic individuals and their families face is the high cost of services and therapies. Many autism therapies and treatments are not covered by insurance, leading to financial hardship for many families. In addition, there is often a lack of available resources for autistic individuals and their families, which can make it difficult to find the help they need.

Another challenge that autistic individuals face is finding and keeping a job. Many employers are not willing to take a chance on someone who may have some limitations in communication or social skills. Autistic individuals often find themselves working menial jobs that do not make use of their talents and abilities.

Isolation can lead to depression and other mental health issues

One of the biggest challenges that autistic individuals and their families face is isolation. When a child is first diagnosed, it can be a big shock for parents. They are suddenly thrust into a world where they know nothing about and have no one to turn to for help. They often feel like they are the only ones going through this and can become very isolated.

This isolation can lead to many negative emotions such as anger, resentment, and depression. Parents need to find support groups or other families in similar situations, so they don’t feel alone. There are also many online mental health services and resources available that can be helpful.

Having no support system can also cause caregiver burnout, as many individuals with autism require round-the-clock care and supervision. In addition, parents of children on the spectrum are often hypervigilant as they worry about their child’s needs being met or safety concerns such as eloping- which is common among kids diagnosed with autism. Constant hypervigilance can lead to long-term anxiety disorders and other health issues

Some common stereotypes and misconceptions about autism

Attitudes towards autism and disabilities, in general, have shifted dramatically in recent years. There is now a greater understanding of autism and its effects on people’s lives. People with autism are now more likely to be accepted and supported in their communities, but many misconceptions and stereotypes about autism remain.

One of the most common stereotypes about autism is that people with the condition are all savants. This is not true, as only a tiny percentage of people with autism actually have savant skills. Additionally, many people with autism do not want to be seen as savants and instead would just like to be treated like everyone else.

Another stereotype is that people with autism are always nonverbal. While it is true that some people with autism do not speak, many people with the condition do talk and can hold conversations. There are also many different types of communication, so just because someone does not speak doesn’t mean they can’t communicate in other ways. Finally, many people with autism are actually very verbal and can be quite chatty.

One common stereotype is that people with autism can’t feel or express emotion. However, this is not the case, as people with autism can experience a wide range of emotions just like anyone else. Many times their emotional expression is sometimes not the “typical” way of showing feelings. Some people “stim,”-which means repeating movements, words, or sounds. This can look like hand flapping, rocking, or in more severe cases of distress- banging their head or body on walls or with their hands.

It’s important to remember that everyone with autism is different. There is a saying, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met ONE person with autism.” Every person and every situation is unique.

What can we do to support autistic individuals and their families in our communities?

There are many ways to spread awareness and promote acceptance and inclusion, such as sharing information about autism on social media or volunteering with local autism advocacy organizations.

If you know a family with a person on the spectrum, you can offer support in more personal ways. Many parents and caregivers of people with special needs are often tired and overwhelmed but find it hard to ask for help. Sometimes just bringing over a meal or a coffee and offering a listening, non-judgmental ear can do wonders.

Many people with autism can be fully independent but have difficulty fitting in or get easily overwhelmed and overstimulated. Seeking to understand their specific needs is a great way to let them know you support them.

No matter how you choose to get involved, raising awareness is an essential step in helping to improve the lives of people with autism and their families.

If you are on the autism spectrum or care for someone with autism and would like some support, call Serene Health at 844-737-3638 or visit us at www.serenehealth.com. We have a variety of behavioral health and mental health services and would love to talk to you. We offer flexible appointments from our telehealth platform, where you can speak to a therapist online from the location of your choice. Contact us today to book an appointment!