VICENZA, Italy - Today, one in 68 children, and one in 42 boys, are identified as having autism spectrum disorder (ASD). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2017) it is the fasting-growing developmental disability in the United States.

Autism is identified as a lifelong developmental disability, characterized by social interaction difficulties, communication challenges, and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors.

Commonly seen signs for children or adults are trouble adapting to changes in routine, repetition of actions, avoiding eye contact or having trouble relating to others. Symptoms and severity vary from child to child but are present beginning in early childhood.

Diagnosing ASD can be very difficult, as there is no medical test (e.g. blood test) to determine if a person has ASD. Presently, detection occurs using developmental screenings and comprehensive diagnostic evaluation, with diagnoses typically not occurring before the age of two.

Autism awareness
In April 1970, the Autism Society announced the first National Autism Awareness Month, a national campaign to help increase the public's awareness of autism. Since its inception, awareness has grown to a global level.

Now, every year in April, individuals and organizations around the globe celebrate Autism Awareness Month with events to educate local communities and raise public awareness about autism. As awareness has grown, so have the goals of the Autism Society. Today, their goals include promoting inclusion and determination to ensure all those with ASD can achieve the highest possible quality of life.

Furthermore, they are encouraging friends and collaborators to become part of the movement towards acceptance and appreciation.

Promote awareness
Learn about autism: To help spread awareness, first educate yourself. A good place to start is visiting the Autism Society's website: www.autism-society.org. Another way to obtain information is by speaking to professionals who are educated on the topic and speaking with people who have firsthand experience.

Go to events: Particularly during the month of April, but also throughout the year, organizations host numerous events such as conferences, fundraisers, walks and runs. Regardless what the event is, go out, continue to learn, volunteer your time, and help increase awareness.

Promote "See Me for Me": March was Developmental Disability Awareness month, and this year's theme was See Me for Me. Look beyond any disability and see the person, not just a person with a disability. Remember a disability does not define who an individual is; use person first language (i.e. "he has autism" as opposed to "he's autistic").

Share your story: If you or someone you know is on the autism spectrum, share your story. Sharing real life-stories helps add to the positive dialogue about autism and helps stop the spread of misinformation.

Resources
If you are concerned about your child's development or think there could be a problem with the way your child plays, learns, speaks or acts, contact your primary care provider at the U.S. Army Health Center-Vicenza to discuss concerns.

For support services and information, contact the local Army Community Service Exceptional Family Member Program office.

U.S. Army Health Center-Vicenza
DSN 636-9000, comm. 0444-61-9000
Educational and Developmental
Intervention Services
For ages 0-3; DSN 636-9230, comm. 0444-61-9230

Exceptional Family Member Program
(EFMP) Manager
Building 108, Room 22
DSN 634-8582, comm. 0444-71-8582

EFMP Systems Navigator
Building 108, Room 24
DSN 634-7912, comm. 0444-71-7912