April is Autism Awareness Month

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April is Autism Awareness Month

Kelly Cervantes

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Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD for short, is a mental condition that affects social behaviors and communication. In the United States, 1 in 59 children are on the ASD spectrum. There is not only one type of autism, but there is a range, every person with autism is unique. While there is not a definitive reason why people have autism, researchers say that it may be due to genetic or environmental factors. Many individuals believe that vaccines cause autism, despite this theory being proven untrue. A study that claimed this had been proven false, but this created such a hysteria that many families refuse to vaccinate their children. However, there is still no scientific correlation connecting vaccines with autism.

No one with autism is the same. Since everyone is different, autism is on a spectrum. When people think of the word “spectrum,” they think it is a straight line that goes from high functioning to highly severe autism. In reality, it is not, that range is too vague. Someone can have highly severe autism, but that doesn’t mean that they are incapable of doing other things such as communication. This is why the spectrum is more like a circle. The spectrum is defined by the characteristics that are affected. For example, one’s autism will affect much of their motor skills rather than their communication skills. No one fits into a perfect definition of what most people think autism is. Someone can seem perfectly “normal,” but they could have autism.

Autism awareness month is celebrated every April. The whole month is dedicated to those who have autism and those who bring awareness to the disability. Throughout the month, participants display a puzzle piece to show their support. The puzzle piece is a symbol of autism that represents unity. In the autism community, everyone is connected no matter where they are on the spectrum. All over the world on April 2nd, national leaders celebrate this event by creating local events and fundraisers. This month is used to promote the idea that we should not fear what we do not know. Just because people have autism does not mean that they should be excluded.

Johnny Hatch, an alumna with Autism, is a former Taft student who graduated last year. Johnny is still involved in many Taft activities such as working at the L’atelier Boutique. Johnny’s mom, Cristina Cannarella, is the founder and CFO of Mother Road Studios, a public benefit corporation. Mother Road Studios’ primary goal is to produce films of inclusivity for everyone, regardless of their disability. Cannarella uses her films to educate the general public that assumes that disabled people do not understand or are not competent enough. Her goal is to have people with disabilities in front of or behind the camera. She documents their lives and shows how much they can contribute to their communities. “Presume competence. Don’t assume what they can’t do,” Cannarella says. Every single person has something to offer regardless of the limitations that they might possess.