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April is a month that supports many important causes, but an extremely important one is Autism Awareness Month. Many people might be confused on what that means or how to support the cause, so this article is for those of you that want to help but are unsure where to start!

What is Autism?

Autism, formally called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD,) is a mental disorder that causes deficits in social communication/interaction and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior and/or interests. As described in the name, autism exists on a spectrum with ranging levels of severity that each require different levels of support. 

What is Autism Awareness Month?

April is Autism Awareness Month, and the purpose of having this month is to give those with ASD a platform to share their voices and experiences with the world. Often times, there are events in which autistic individuals can get together and garner support. The main goal of this is to spread awareness about this mental disorder. A lot of us probably know a little bit about what autism is, but there are so many myths and falsehoods clouding our education.

What Can I Do?

The first step in supporting Autism Awareness Month is simple: get educated. Look to reputable sources, like the DSM-V, to find out exactly what a diagnosis of autism means. You can support this cause simply by expanding your own awareness of autism, especially if you don’t personally know anyone with this disorder. Education about anything helps us to avoid stereotypes and misconceptions that are popular in the world.

Another way to participate in this month is to listen to autistic voices. Look up people who have ASD and listen to their stories and lessons. Each person is different and we cannot forget to support those who are most impacted and passionate about this month. No one can educate us better about Autism Awareness Month than a person who has ASD.

Perhaps the easiest yet one of the most important methods of bringing forward awareness is stop using the word “autistic” as an insult. The amount of times I’ve heard people calling each other that word in a derogatory way in high school was honestly horrifying. If you are guilty of this, find a different word, as having ASD is not an insult and not something to make fun of. If you hear someone saying this, speak up and educate them about why what they are saying is wrong morally and factually.

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As April is coming to a close, you can continue following up on your education! The fight for autism awareness does not end once the month is over. There are so many other things you can do to support the cause, so start researching and learning more so that you can increase other’s (and your own!) awareness.

Kristin Thompson is a Communication Sciences and Disorders major, Disability Studies Minor, and a member of the Honors College of Health.
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