(WGHP) — April is Autism Acceptance Month.

It’s an opportunity to not only learn about this disorder but learn was to include autistic people in the community and build connections with people who are different.

What is autism?

Autism is a brain disorder that typically appears during the first three years of life. It impacts a person’s ability to process information and interact with the world around them.

Autistic people may have problems with social, behavioral, and communication skills. They might repeat behaviors and might not understand changes in their daily activities.

Many autistic people also have different ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to things.

A person with an autism spectrum disorder might:

  • Have language deficits or differences
  • Have trouble relating to others or not have an interest in other people at all
  • Avoid eye contact
  • Prefer to be alone
  • Have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
  • Repeat actions over and over again
  • Have trouble adapting when a routine changes
  • Have unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound

Impact on family and caregivers

The impact can vary from family to family. Autism is a spectrum disorder – meaning each person is unique and will have unique needs, strengths, and challenge. This is a lifelong condition and it can have a significant impact on parents and siblings.

Autistic people can be negatively impacted due to their challenges with social interaction, and sensory processing. These difficulties can create stress and result in misdiagnosis of medical conditions and possible depression.

 How is autism diagnosed?

There is no medical test for autism. An accurate autism diagnosis is made by a team of professionals and is based on observation of the person’s behavior. Autism can often share behavioral characteristics with other disorders so multiple tests can be required to rule things out.

A brief observation in a single setting cannot present a true picture of a person’s behaviors and abilities. Input from parents and other caregivers, plus developmental history are used in tandem with professional observation.

In North Carolina, there are programs that are internationally recognized for their expertise in diagnosis and assessment. If you wish to connect with resources for yourself or an autistic person in your life, you can start with the Autism Society of North Carolina.

Autism Resource Specialists support all 100 counties. ASNC can connect you with other local parents and adults.