April is known for bringing showers, pollen, and for many families Easter. But at Sticky Jewelry we want April also to be about Autism Awareness! Most people feel confident that they know a little bit about Autism because they’ve known someone on the spectrum. The reported diagnosed rate of Autism has grown to 1 of every 68 children, so it’s easy to know someone! But, there’s a saying in the Autism community that if you’ve met one person with Autism, you’ve met ONE person with Autism. Autism is classified as a spectrum disorder because it’s not just one all-inclusive condition; rather more a buffet of common primary symptoms linked to many closely related disorders.
The symptoms at the buffet table include an entrée of social deficits in regards to interaction and communication as well as side dishes of repetitive interests, behaviors, and activities like hand waving, rocking, or sole focus on a single topic. These symptoms must appear in the child’s early development (roughly by age 2) to be considered Autism. WARNING: Parents and Loved ones of young children, do not start feeling your stomach sink and heart race thinking OH MY GOODNESS ‘so and so’ has AUTISM!! It’s common for loved ones to see non-related behaviors their kid displays as symptoms. And not just Autism related; remember when that case of the sniffles had you convinced little Jimmy suffered from the Black Plague? Promoting Autism awareness means encouraging parents to take their concerns to a licensed doctor who can appropriately refer or diagnose ‘Jimmy’.
This brings me to my next major point. Addressing your child’s (or adult’s!) specific needs by finding a treatment plan that fits and works, is more important than figuring out what EXACTLY they have and defining it with a label. There are many treatment plans for toddlers through adults on the spectrum. The area that really gets my ‘tail wagging’ is incorporating animals into therapy. This area of treatment goes by many names- Animal Integrated Therapy, Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI), Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT), etc… Therapy of all kinds has seen remarkable jumps in patient improvement by just adding the presence of a furry body. Typical goals of an ASD therapy session can include social and emotional development, communication skills, self-expression, gross and fine motor skills, and problem- solving. Animal presence can assist in so many areas the session focuses on. Say a treatment goal that day was to have the child make a decision from two choices and use a “distal (finger) point” to indicate the selection. The animal therapy would involve the selection of a toy or treat (using distal point) for the child to give to the animal.
Animal integrated therapy sessions for a child with Autism can vary greatly from patient to patient or even session to session. An overall analysis of these treatments show improvements for many areas of impaired functioning known in ASD, particularly increased communications and social interaction. Animal therapy has also been shown to reduce stress, problem behaviors, and autistic severity (i.e. where the patient falls on the spectrum from severe to high functioning). THIS JUST IN: there’s now a way to see the benefits of an animal-integrated session in your own living room! By formally training a family pet, parents and guardians can encourage the practice of the skills learned in therapy. Additionally, having the family pet trained in therapy can help normalize day-to-day life, provide practice of caretaking behavior, improve motor skills, and act as an ice-breaker for social interactions.
Now that you feel more informed, and want to be more active in your new favorite topic- what can you do?
There are always different fundraisers and activities going on to support Autism awareness such as Autism Speaks Walk Now.
Spread awareness! The best way to be aware is to be informed. Autism-hub.com has great blog material written about Autism from family members, professionals, and those awesome individuals diagnosed with Autism.
If you or someone you know would be interested in more information about service dogs for a loved one with Autism please visit: this website for a great resource.
You can find a vast selection of functional jewelry for both your child/adult with autism and their furry friend at StickyJMedical. Here are some links to some of my favorite items: