Our Opinion: Be aware, open-minded about autism

Autism spectrum disorders, as its name implies, is multi-faceted.

The developmental disability manifests itself in a variety of behaviors that require a variety of therapies.

During this month’s observance of Autism Awareness Month, therapists, parents and patients are working to promote greater community understanding.

“Autism has many faces,” said mother Ginger Luetkemeyer, a parent of an autistic child. “There is not one treatment that will work across the board ... Each child, even in the same family, is unique.”

Autism spectrum disorders largely have eluded scientific understanding, thus far. Research pinpointing causes and treatments is ongoing.

What we do know is:

• The spectrum of disorders has been linked to at least 14 behaviors, including: impaired social skills, including avoiding verbal communication, interaction and eye contact; insistence on sameness and routine; and insensitivity to pain.

• Autism is considered the fastest growing developmental disability. One autistic student was enrolled at the local Special Learning Center when it opened 26 years ago; now, 38 percent of its students have been diagnosed with the disorder.

• In addition to speech, occupational and physical therapies, individual behavior therapies specific to each child’s disorder have shown promise. Those individual therapies, however, are time-intensive and expensive.

More and more people in our community are being touched by someone — a family member, friend or neighbor — who has a connection to the autism spectrum of disorders.

We encourage everyone to remain open-minded and willing to learn about this perplexing disease.

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