ORLANDO, Fla. – April has traditionally been known as Autism Awareness Month, but it has more recently shifted toward Autism Acceptance Month. The goal is to take awareness one step further in order to truly accept those with autism as part of the community day in and day out. In order to have acceptance, education and understanding is really important.
So News 6 spoke to Rashonda Musawwir, a pediatric nurse practitioner at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. She specializes in developmental and behavioral medicine. We took some of the most-Googled questions on autism to her.
What is autism?
“Most people have heard of autism. Most people know someone with autism or a family member has autism. But no one really knows like what it is,” said Musawwir. “So I think the simplest way to help others understand what autism is, is to describe it as a neurological disorder that affects development in your communication, socialization, but it also affects your behaviors. So, in a nutshell, you may experience speech and language delays, where the child may have difficulty communicating at an age appropriate level, but also their socialization, how they interact with others, how do they communicate on a social and a social manner, but also how they adjust their behaviors. So they may have difficulties with change and difficulties with things not going the way they planned or how they think it should go. But they are very regimented and sometimes rigid in their routines. So the adjusting to those things may be difficult.”
What causes autism? Is it genetic?
“What we know today, as far as research-wise, is that there is a genetic underlying cause for the disorder,” said Musawwir. “Of course, there may be other things, such as which are currently being studied, including environmental and other influences that may cause higher incidence of autism spectrum disorders, but to date, genetics still remains the primary cause.”
Is autism a disability?