Today is the Start of Autism Awareness Month

image of a ribbon made of colorful puzzle piecesIt is Autism Awareness Month once again, and this year brings with it a new autism prevalence rate. According to the CDC, the prevalence of autism in the United States is now 1 in 88 children. They also claim that for every girl on the autism spectrum there are five autistic boys. This means that since the last prevalence rate I’ve heard, the prevalence among boys has increased more than it has for girls.

I’ll be honest. I’m skeptical about that last one. Of course, I’ve long held the opinion that the autism rate for girls was wrong due to under-diagnonsis. While each autistic must meet a specified set of diagnostic criteria to get a diagnosis, many girls may have milder symptoms or different manifestations of the symptoms than boys. Sadly, many doctors still don’t seem to realize that autistic girls and autistic boys don’t always act or react in the same ways. Seeing the CDC report that the ratio of girls on the spectrum to boys on the spectrum is now 1:5 instead of 1:4 is disheartening. This could be because of one of my favorite reasons doctors gave when I was a child of why they wouldn’t give me an autism diagnosis — “If she wasn’t a girl, I’d say she has autism.”

Obviously, there was something seriously wrong then with the information doctors were receiving about autism. Unfortunately, I’m afraid too many autistic girls will have to deal with the same confusing adolescence I did, where they are told by professionals that they are perfectly normal yet know inside that there is something “wrong” with them, something that makes them different from everyone around them.

If you’re a girl dealing with these feelings or you know a girl who is, I can say one thing with absolute certainty based on my own experiences: There is nothing wrong with you. You are perfect the way God made you. It’s tough never fitting into any group, even your own family, and always knowing you are different from everyone around you, but there are other people in this world like you, other people who have been through what you are going through now.

If you believe you are on the autism spectrum, own it. Don’t let others tell you that you are somehow worth less than others or that you need to work harder to be normal. Learn to love yourself and be happy with who you are, because no matter how hard you try to pretend to be normal, you will always be different and know it.

One of the best things I ever did for my mental and emotional health was accept that I am autistic and that I will never be “normal.” I’ve learned to work with my differences and accept that I have limitations others don’t understand. I’ve learned to love myself, differences and all, because this is how God made me. Since He doesn’t make mistakes, there is nothing “wrong” with me; I’m just different from most of the population.

You can find more information on autism on the internet and at your local library. One site you might visit is the Autism Society of America. They have a wonderful list of resources, as well as personal stories of living with autism, information about autism, and more.

If you want to read the CDC’s latest report on the prevalence of autism, you can find it here.

And finally, because I love dogs and I’m fascinated by the amazing work they can do forPhotograph of a small dog wearing a service dog vest humans, I recommend checking out the slideshow Good Morning America put together of autistic kids and their service dogs. The captions with each image do a great job of showing how much a service dog can help people on the autism spectrum.

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