The Autism Society estimates that nearly 1.5 million Americans are living with the effects of autism. Even more shocking is a 2009 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing autism in as many as 1 in 110 births.
April is National Autism Awareness Month. This is a wonderful opportunity for the public to become educated about autism and issues affecting people who have the disorder. It's also a good time to give families important information to help deal with and overcome some of the challenges that autism brings. The library has many different materials available that can help answer questions about autism's causes, symptoms and effects. During April, we wanted to share these important resources with you.
"1001 Great Ideas for Teaching & Raising Children with Autism or Asperger's" by Ellen Notbohm and Veronica Zysk"; "Activity Schedules for Children with Autism" by Lynn E. McClannahan and Patricia J. Krantz: The authors provide specific examples of how to help autistic children to perform everyday activities that will help increase independence, social interaction and self-management.
"Andy and His Yellow Frisbee" by Mary Thompson: The story's simple text and inclusion of common activities make autism easier for children to understand. Sarah tries to make friends with Andy who seems only interested in spinning his Frisbee around on the ground. Sarah makes several attempts at conversation and offers to share her own Frisbee. The story includes Andy's sister Rosie's point of view, which helps tell readers about autistic behaviors. The book also includes a helpful information sheet.
"Disconnected Kids" by Robert Melillo: Dr. Melillo discusses how the developing brain is "wired" and describes what happens when "the brain misbehaves." The book discusses common challenges such as poor social skills, abnormal emotional reaction and sensitivities. "Disconnected Kids" provides sensory-motor exercises, checklist assessments and behavior modification tools.
"Ian's Walk" by Laurie Lears: Ian stares at the ceiling fan instead of eating ice cream at a diner, presses his face to a wall to smell the bricks and screams at the tickle of a feather. Julie panics when she loses Ian at the park but decides to "think like Ian" to find him, and is quickly able to locate him. This simple story about two siblings out for a walk demonstrates how an autistic child's brain "doesn't work like other people's." The book would be very helpful to an adult who might need to explain the disorder to children, especially siblings of children who have autism.
"How to Talk to an Autistic Kid" by Daniel Stefanski: This nonfiction book written by a teenager who has autism, provides helpful tips for children (and adults) who may not understand what autism is. His descriptions of autism and the behaviors it causes make the book an excellent primer for anyone needing quick and easy-to-understand information about the disorder.
In addition to these books, there are several community resources providing information and/or services for people who have autism. The South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs can by contacted by calling 800-289-7012. And the Lowcountry Autism Foundation has a very user-friendly website, www.lowcountryautismfoundation.org. It includes information about services provided by the comprehensive therapy center, a directory of service providers and helpful links to other organizations such as Autism Speaks and the Autism Society.
Whatever challenge you're facing today, take some time and visit your local library. We're there to help you find the information and the support you need to meet those challenges and, as is our hope, improve your quality of life.
Melinda Vest is the Youth Services manager at the Bluffton Branch of the Beaufort County Public Library, at 120 Palmetto Way, Bluffton.