Q & A with Michael J. Cameron, PhD, BCBA-D, Pacific Child and Family Associates
1. What is Autism Awareness Month?
Individuals with autism are often misunderstood, and Autism Awareness Month presents an opportunity to bring attention to autism and issues within the autism community. Since the 1970s, the United States has recognized April as Autism Awareness Month as a way to recognize those diagnosed.
The dedicated Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon for the month is the most recognized symbol of the autism community and is a ribbon made up of bright colors patterned together as a puzzle piece. The vivid colors are significant because they signal hope, and the puzzle pattern reflects the mystery and complexity of the autism spectrum.
2. What are a few common myths about autism?
One of the biggest myths is that every individual with autism is the same. This couldn’t be farther from the truth; when in reality, no two individuals with autism are the same. The autism spectrum is extremely broad and individuals’ symptoms vary from almost unnoticeable to more apparent.
Another myth is that autism is caused by vaccines, poor parenting, or solely by environmental factors. The exact cause of autism has not been scientifically discovered, and vaccines, parenting, and upbringing have all been dismissed as causes.
Lastly, one of the biggest misconceptions about autism relates to an individual’s behavior, and that they are violent, unable to form meaningful relationships, or lack empathetic feelings. Violent acts from autistic individuals may arise from sensory overload or emotional distress, but the acts, however, are not motivated by malice. Individuals with autism are able to have close relationships, fall in love, and have children.
3. What can families of children with autism do for fun this month?
By Googling or speaking with other parents, teachers, or clinicians, you can find local events such as playgroups, adult groups, conferences, and more. A few events include:
- Pacific Child and Family Associates (PCFA) is hosting its third annual Autism Awareness Field Day at Fresno State from noon-5:00p.m. on Thursday, April 8th.
- PCFA is also hosting a Strike Out Autism Night at the Fresno State Grizzles game on April 23rd with an on-field parade and fun zone activities.
- Walk Now for Autism Speaks is a group walk in Los Angeles on April 26th at the Pasadena Rose Bowl. There are similar walks happening throughout the month across the U.S.
- Sensory-friendly movies are hosted at movie theaters and catered to the needs of individuals with autism.
- If you’re looking to take a trip this month, Royal Caribbean offers autism-friendly cruises with new youth programs, trained daycare staff, and specialized meals.
4. What can friends do this month to support those they know who have autism?
April presents many more activities for individuals with autism than the other months of the year. Take this opportunity to reach out to someone you know who has autism and offer to attend an event with them or even just spend time with them doing an activity they love. Parents of children with autism face many challenges. Consider helping out by attending an event with them or offering to take the child to an event.
5. How can friends, families and caregivers bring awareness to autism all year long?
While Autism Awareness Month helps call attention to autism, autism should be recognized all year round. Most important is the day-to-day love and support you can show to your loved one. By identifying common interests for yourself and the individual with autism, you can create routine activities that build a relationship and help to meet goals.
ABOUT DR. MICHAEL J. CAMERON
Dr. Michael J. Cameron, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst® (Charter Certificant 1-00-0010) is The Chief Clinical Officer for Pacific Child and Family Associates (PCFA) and experienced in the area of behavioral medicine, behavioral health assessment, intervention for diverse populations, and higher education. PCFA offers clinic based, in-home, and at-school services that include applied behavior analysis, parenting training and speech therapy for children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. To learn more, visit http://pacificchildandfamily.com/.
Opinions expressed by Autism Daily Newscast Contributors are their own.