I grew up knowing that April was Autism Awareness Month because it was so widely discussed in our schools. We had T-shirts and were all encouraged to wear blue to “light it up” on World Autism Awareness Day. Coming back to school last weekend, I noticed the resident advisors on my floor decorated our board with a tree using puzzle pieces as the leaves for autism awareness. Walking by this, I immediately noticed what it was for. Each day, I hear someone compliment the “cool puzzle tree,” but am still shocked that people do not realize the connection between the puzzle pieces and autism.

Thinking about how people didn’t make the connection also got me wondering if people actually know the background of autism or are just acknowledging that it’s real and affecting people in the world we live in.

Autism affects one in 68 children and is more prevalent in boys. Autism also is the fastest-growing developmental disorder in the United States. Many people just assume that it is obvious when someone is autistic because you can see the signs. In all honesty, that just isn’t true. Autism is based on a spectrum, and the child is diagnosed off of that. This disease affects the child in the areas of social interaction, communication, and behaviors and interests.

There are five different types of autism including:

Autistic disorder which is also known as classic autism

Classic autism is when the child has an impairment in social interaction and communication. These children also have problems with pretend play.

Asperger’s syndrome

Asperger’s is where the child has a delay in development of many basic skills, especially the ones involving socialization.

Pervasive developmental disorder (PDD-NOS)

Children with PDD have significant problems with communication and play. They also have difficulty interacting with others.

Rett’s syndrome

This disorder is very rare, and the children who have this (mostly girls) also suffer with problems including physical development. These children suffer the loss of many motor skills and also have poor coordination.

Childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD)

CDD is also very rare, and the children develop normally. Between the ages of 2 and 10, the children who have CDD will lose some of the skills they have already developed, including social and language skills. Children will CDD may also lose control of their bowel and bladder.

Overall, autism isn’t just the child who has problems communicating and interacting with others. While those are big factors, these children also suffer from many other problems. I have seen a few things recently saying that Autism Awareness Month makes these children feel like outcasts, but, as the sister of a disabled brother with a different disease, I wish people knew more about the things he goes through every day. I think it is important that during this month, we take a step back to learn about what others around us are coping with.