April is National Autism Awareness Month. According to the National Autism Society one of the nations leading grassroots autism organization, as many as one in 500 teens are thought to have autism, Statistics have also proven that the possibility of boys having autism is more typical than in girls. Teenagers that have autism have most likely been diagnosed when they were young during their toddler years. It should also be noted that autism is a developmental disorder and should not be mistaken for a personality disorder. Teens that are autistic can learn skills to help interact socially with others. In addition, most autistic teens are able to engage in school classes and age appropriate activities. Many teens with autism have been found to have an above-average intelligence.
The National Autism Society found that autism can be hard to distinguish because it is what is called a spectrum disorder. When you hear someone talk about the spectrum, this means the different severity levels of autism that require support. Level 3, requiring very substantial support, Level 2, requiring substantial support, and Level 1, requiring support. This also means that teens with autism are all different on the spectrum levels and will not have the same symptoms, this is why it is called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Ultimately, autism affects all teens differently.
Autism Speaks is a foundation that is working hard to raise awareness of autism. The Autism Speaks foundation has found that many educators are not prepared to adapt their teaching methods to meet the state standards and the increasingly diverse needs of teens with autism. Veronica Fleury an author that writes for the University of North Carolina’s Center on Secondary Education for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders has been advocating to help teachers focus more on students with autism and hopes that schools will realize that jobs in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) can be ideal careers for many teens with autism. Fleury has proven with her research that many college students with autism are interested in concentrating on STEM courses. According to Fleury, “High school students with ASD also need ample opportunities to practice skills across settings throughout the school day… Teaching them to monitor their own behavior can help them to use their skills in a variety of settings.”
It should also be acknowledged that not every individual with autism supports the message and work of Autism Speaks.
There are a lot of books that feature teens with autism. These books show varying degrees or levels of compassion and understanding to teens with autism and relay the message that we should treat teens with autism with kindness and warmth. Most importantly we need to remember just because a teen has autism, it should not define who they are, nor should we expect teens with autism to let it define what they can achieve in their lives. We should remember that the possibilities of positivity, growth, and success for teens with autism are limitless.