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Understanding Autism During April, by David and Mercedes Rizzo

April is Autism Awareness month.

So what exactly is Autism? Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means that there is much variation in the way that it presents itself. Autism is a neurological disorder that affects an individual's social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication and repetitive or restrictive behaviors. The incidence of autism is high. 1 in 68 children in the United States will be given this diagnosis. We know this disorder all too well as our daughter Danielle was diagnosed with non-verbal autism shortly after her 4th birthday. Perhaps, you know someone with autism. Perhaps there is a family in your parish with autism.


Here are some things to keep in mind during this month of autism awareness:

  1. Families of children with autism are dealing with a lot. They are doing the best they can under very trying circumstances.

  2. Families are often under severe stress. They may feel isolated, exhausted and overwhelmed. They may not know where to turn for help.

  3. They may be undergoing struggles regarding their faith.

  4. Sometimes it's challenging just to get out the door with their child with autism. They are often concerned about noise, crowds, and other sensory issues. They may be worried that their child will be disruptive to others.

  5. They know that some people will misconstrue and attribute their child's behaviors to "bad parenting."

In honor of Autism Awareness month let's all do our best to be attuned to the challenges people with autism and their families face. Given the statistics there is a high likelihood that you will come across someone with autism in your travels whether at the store, school, church, even at the park or beach.Your kind demeanor and reactions can make a big difference!

This month, look for ways to aid autism families at your parish, and in your community; awareness is just the first step towards greater acceptance. To learn more about autism, speak with autistic adults, or visit Autistic Self Advocacy Network for more information.


David and Mercedes write and speak from a faith perspective as parents of a child with autism. Visit DavidAndMercedesRizzo.com to learn more. Follow them on Facebook at Autism With The Rizzos. Authors of Praying For Your Special Needs Child, (Word Among Us Press) and Spiritually Able and The Adaptive First Eucharist Preparation Kit (Loyola Press). This post originally appeared on CatholicMom.com.

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