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The month of April is an important and hectic month for most of us. April brings our school year to a close and summer is almost in sight but while we’re slaving away on finals and dreaming of warmer days we may miss a greater cause for awareness that’s implanted in this month. April is national autism awareness month. April has been the designated month for autism awareness since the 70’s and it is seen as an opportunity to educate the public about autism and issues within the autism community. So give your brain a break for just a few minutes and take this opportunity to see what April really stands for! According to the official Autism Speaks website, autism is a general term for a group of complex disorders of the brain characterized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication and repetitive behavior. The term refers to autism disorders, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive development disorder and Asperger Syndrome.

People suffering from autism may have difficulty in motor coordination, attention and communication but many excel in areas of visual skill, music and math. The previously mentioned article states that 1 in every 88 American children is diagnosed with autism every year and the count is only increasing. Don’t be fooled, people suffering from autism look just like you and I, you probably have even had class with at least 1 person living with the disorder. Although autism creates many challenges, those affected by the disorder are typically extremely intellectual and have above average academic abilities. For many years the cause of autism was unknown. The Autism Speaks website states that research is now delivering answers but first and foremost, there is no one cause to autism disorders just like there is no one type of autism. There have long been rumors surrounding the cause of autism disorders.

Among these myths are the assumption that the disorder is brought on by bad parenting and the assumption that the cause is bad prenatal care. Although those are popular beliefs, research has proven otherwise. Over the last five years scientists have found a number of rare gene mutations that are believed to be one of the main causes of autism disorders. So, why is autism awareness important? Just a few days ago I would have asked myself the same thing. The Autism Speaks website provided me with a great answer. According to the website signs for autism usually present themselves between the ages of 2 and 3.

If the disorder can be caught early on treatment can help the child to cope with the symptoms and lead a more normal, relaxed life. Broad awareness of the signs associated with autism can help to assure that children don’t go undiagnosed. It can also help those without autism to understand the struggles of those suffering from the disorder and bring attention to the need for new research. JMU students are notorious for their social outreach and willingness to be the change. Supporting autism awareness is just another way we can show our big purple and gold heart. Supporting this great cause is simple; it won’t require any of your money or take away from your study time. A great way to show support and awareness for autism is through social media.

Admit it, you’re going to check your Facebook or Twitter at least once in the next few weeks, why not post a status or link to raise autism awareness to your friends? If you want to take it a little further you can also purchase puzzle piece t-shirts from various sites online to show your support. Together we can help to raise awareness and support for those affected by autism. Autism speaks, JMU listens. What are some ways JMU can strive to show support for this great cause?

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