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Education needed on autism

The sounds of coins clinking on the marble floor of a shopping mall, the crinkle of plastic shopping bags and a security alarm blaring might not cause many people to bat an eye.

The vibrant colors of balloons or flashing lights from television screens and cameras likewise wouldn’t be a cause for concern.

But for a child with autism, a trip to the mall can turn into a stressful experience full of sensory overload. That child who begs and screams to leave may look undisciplined, but they aren’t. They are simply getting too much information too quickly.

That scenario played out in a video released on April 2 by the National Autistic Society in the United Kingdom, intended to raise awareness for the disorder on World Autism Day.

April is also Autism Awareness Month and here in the United States, about 1 in 68 children has autism spectrum disorder, according to the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, which is funded by the Centers for Disease Control.

Autism is characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors, sensory sensitivities and other behaviors.

Thankfully, Lawrence County has the Board of Developmental Disabilities to help families find the programs that fit their children’s needs.

But what those families may need now, is a little understanding and empathy from the community. Raising and caring for a special needs child can be emotionally and financially draining.

If you see a parent struggling with their child, don’t be so quick to judge their parenting skills or dismiss the child as unruly.

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, do your part to learn a little more about the disorder so you can lend your support.