April is Autism Awareness Month
By Mary E. Hart
April is Autism Awareness month, and it holds a special place in my heart considering that eight years ago this month, my son -- who is now 13 -- was officially diagnosed as being on the Autism spectrum with Asperger’s.
Unofficially, we had known something was up shortly after our son was born. He didn’t point to things; didn’t make eye contact; and was delayed in speaking. Luckily, I had friends who also had children on the spectrum and they advised me to speak with my son’s pediatrician about getting a referral to Early Intervention, which is a statewide developmental service for children from birth to three years of age. At my son’s next appointment, I did just that and the pediatrician agreed that my son would benefit from being evaluated by Early Intervention, so I called and made an appointment.
The Early Intervention coordinator came by and observed our son both at daycare and at home along with an occupational therapist and a speech therapist. After the evaluations, they sat us down and told us that our son was indeed on the autism spectrum and would start with speech therapy and occupational therapy. Even though we knew that was the most likely end result, it was still difficult to hear.
Looking back, however, it was the best thing because our son has truly thrived with the therapies he has received. He tested out of speech therapy in the third grade and occupational in fifth. These days, what he needs the most help with and luckily receives from his school are social skills (so important, especially with high school and life in general around the corner) and organizational skills, which are part Asperger’s and part just being a teenage boy.
In the realm of working, people with Autism have a difficult time interviewing and working with people on a day to day basis due to an inability to read social cues; a lack of organizational skills and a tendency to be prone to low short-term memory, but very impressive long-term memory. And yes, I absolutely wonder how my son will fare in the working world, but Temple Grandin and others have helped me learn over time that he certainly can thrive, especially if a field of study in school for future employment is chosen that will work with his skills -- including computer science, accounting, engineering or library science. Also, knowing that organizations like NTI exist to help people with Autism get a job or get back to work helps ease my mind quite a bit.
On SSI, SSDI or have a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor? Maybe NTI can help you out find your next position? Find out more about NTI at www.NTICentral.org/learnmore.
Mary E. Hart is the Digital Communications Specialist for NTI. She is also a freelance writer, editor and content strategist, specializing in writing copy that will get stuck in your head like an earworm, prompting you to take action. Previously, she worked in Demand Generation marketing for UBM Tech and Ziff Davis Enterprise. In her spare time, Mary is working on the next great novel.