April 2 is the eighth annual World Autism Awareness Day. In Connecticut, this year a special event will help connect information for educators and families who have students on the autism spectrum.
“Autism: Connecting the Dots” will be held at the State Education Resource Center (SERC) at 25 Industrial Park Road in Middletown. On April 1, from 4:30-7 p.m., there will be a tour of the SERC library, focusing on resources and books on autism and technology demonstrations in SERC’s new Assistive Technology Corner. Local authors of resource materials on autism will present workshops.
On April 2, from 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m., additional workshops will be held on topics such as transitioning a student with autism into adult life and navigating the world of special education.
According to Autism Resources and Services Connecticut, “Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of social interaction, communication skills and behavior. Both children and adults with autism typically show difficulties in both verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions and leisure or play activities. Autism is a spectrum disorder and it affects each individual differently and to varying degrees.”
Last March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data on the prevalence of autism in the United States. This surveillance study identified 1 in 68 children as having autism spectrum disorder (ASD) such as Asperger Syndrome and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. Data from 2012 show a 23 percent increase in ASD nationwide since the last report in 2009.
Not only are autism rates are on the rise nationally, but the prevalence of the disorder is considerably higher among Latino children, according to the CDC, which reported that in the past five years, the largest increases in autism rates were among Latino children.
The CDC states that children born to older parents, or children born prematurely or children whose parents take harmful drugs during pregnancy are at a higher risk of developing the disorder.
Even though reported increases are due in part to greater awareness of the disorder, resulting in early treatment, experts say there has not been enough outreach in identifying autism in Latinos.
“There are problems with access to healthcare, socio-economic issues, language barriers, different social norms and how they deal with the medical world,” said Sara Reed of the Connecticut Autism Spectrum Resource Center in Wallingford in a story published in CTLatinoNews.com two years ago.
“Autism: Connecting the Dots” is sponsored by the CT State Department of Education SERC in collaboration with several other organizations. Some of the workshops will be streamed live and archived for later viewing. SERC will also live-tweet the event with the hashtag #autismconnects. For more information, contact Linda Adorno at SERC, 860-632-1485 ext. 241.
Across America, major fundraising walk-a-thons are held to raise funds to support research and programs for those who struggle with autism. The annual “Walk Now for Autism Speaks” in Greater Hartford will be held on Sunday, June 7 at Rentschler Field.