April is Autism Awareness Month
Sesame Street, the beloved children’s program is shining a bright light on the disorder. Julia, a character introduced in 2017, has now been joined by her family. Mom is an art teacher, Dad is an EMT who plays the saxophone and Julia’s brother Samuel is a soccer nut. Julia has eccentricities and a quirkiness that are unique to her and have endeared her to fans. Sesame Street has always addressed issues through the lens of a child with the intent to increase the scope of awareness, understanding and empathy, like they have with grief and homelessness.
Autism is a complex mental condition and developmental disability in which no two people share exactly the same characteristics, but 1 child in 110 is diagnosed with the disorder. It affects all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups and is 4 times more common in boys than girls. This is a lifelong developmental disability with no known single cause and no cure. Autism is now defined as Autism Spectral Disorder (ASD), which can cause significant social, communication, emotional and behavioral challenges. Often nothing about the way a person with ASD looks sets them apart from others, but the ways they interact, communicate and learn are unique. People with ASD can range from extremely gifted to severely challenged. Some of the typical characteristics include:
- Social Skills Often having difficulty interacting with others. As children, they may not demonstrate appropriate play or communication skills, ranging from inappropriate to offensive
- Empathy The ability to recognize and understand others’ feelings. They may have difficulty showing or understanding empathy, but can learn to acknowledge the feelings of others
- Physical Contact In some cases, people with ASD do not like physical contact like hugs, tickling, or physical play
- Sudden Environmental Change Examples of this include loud noises, lighting changes or odors
- Speech Some people with ASD use a monotone speech pattern or “echolalia”, which manifests itself through repetitive words or phrases
- Changes in Routine People with autism may exhibit repetitive behavior where any disruption to their daily routine can be unsettling
While autism may be widespread, awareness is not, so the introduction of Julia by Sesame Street is particularly welcome. Autism Awareness is represented by a puzzle ribbon designed to make the public more aware or this widespread disability and corresponding challenges.
Successful care by healthcare providers depends greatly on understanding as well as an individualized approach. Communication with patients, families and caregivers can optimize health encounters with ASD patients. NHS Solutions has a strong pool of Interim Nurse Leaders equipped with the skills to work with these and other unique challenges. Contact us to discuss the needs at your facility. NHS Solutions can provide Interim Nurse Leaders who are educators and behavioral health experts at the manager, director and c-suite levels.