Thursday, April 02, 2009

April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day

Today is an Autism Awareness Day world-wide. And if my personal connection to autism is not enough reason to blog about it, how about this -
One of the earliest signs of autism in infants and toddlers is sniffing objects before ever using them.

Autism is a neurological disorder that is affecting about 1 in every 500 children in North America, affecting areas of social skills, receptive and expressive language, and most significantly - the way individuals perceive the stimulus around them. Autism causes either a heightened or diminished perception of the senses. And in each individual, it may be a different sense that is affected. For example: one child can be over sensitive to noise but non responsive to touch and have an extremely high pain-tolerance; others may be oblivious or enjoy deep pressure touch and experience light touch (i.e.: petting the hair or stroking the skin) as extremely painful; another individual can be over sensitive to light and smells and under sensitive to noise. Individuals with autism have a difficult time managing their reactions to stimuli from the environment and are often offered "sensory diets", where they can either become de-sensitized to sensations that in "normal" range causes them to feel pain; and be more receptive to stimulation that they tend to ignore.

My 12 year old daughter has been always very sensitive to light touch, but enjoyed deep pressure hugs. Her pain tolerance was incredibly high, but thankfully that has changed! And despite the cliche of autistic people not making eye contact, she managed to communicate for 8 years almost with her eyes only (they are HUGE though...). She loves people (and says it all the time), enjoys music, swimming and horseback riding and is ecstatically happy at least 95% of the time (when she's awake, of course).

Each person who has autism is unique and has a different personality, talents, strengths and areas that need an extra help from us parents, teachers, siblings and peers. Over 10 years ago I made a decision to stay in British Columbia because here children have the right to be integrated into a "regular" school. Since very young age, children learn to take care of others that need help. This is good for the community and the individuals who need extra support. I hope that this attitude will continue when she's goes to high school next year.

Tomorrow there will be a perfume related post. For today, I just wanted to do my little share of bringing more awareness to these very special people. They can truly transform your life if you only open your heart and focus on what's real.




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