April is National Autism Awareness Month


SN’s Promotion Calendar defines and discusses Autism Spectrum Disorder

Did you know that April is National Autism Awareness Month? This date, as well as other monthly, weekly and daily celebration ideas, can be found in School Nutrition’s 2017-18 Promotion Calendar.

What is it?

“Autism” refers to a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders characterized by: challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. 

In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association merged four previously distinct diagnoses into a singular, umbrella diagnosis of “autism spectrum disorder ASD).” These include: autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome.

The term “spectrum” specifically refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability in functioning that can occur in people with ASD. Some children and adults with ASD are fully able to perform all activities of daily living while others require substantial support to perform basic activities.

Who is affected by it?

While boys tend to be more likely to develop ASD than girls, ASD is found in all genders, racial and ethnic groups, as well as across all socioeconomic levels. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 68 children has ASD.In addition, an estimated 50,000 teens with autism become adults – and lose school-based autism services – each year.

One size does not fit all

Like the rest of us, the Autistic Community is not one-size-fits all—they are each unique individual with individual personalities and needs.
About one-third of people with this diagnosis remain nonverbal through adulthood. Additionally, a third of the community have an intellectual disability on top of their autistic diagnosis—other metal, physical and emotional difficulties frequently accompany autism. This combination can include seizures, anxiety, phobias, sleep disorders, gastrointestinal disorders and more.

What are the signs?

The symptoms are present from early childhood and affect daily functioning. In some cases, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months of age, or earlier, depending on development. While all children are unique, here are some signs that a child might display if they have ASD:

  • Highly upset by minor changes in routine or environment.
  • Delay in language development or entirely nonverbal.
  • Repetitive behaviors, like flapping, rocking or spinning.
  • Struggles to understand and empathize with others.
  • Unusual and intensive reactions to sensory contact (sight, sound, smell, etc.)
  • Little to no eye contact and avoidance of people.

Note: Please do not self-diagnose either yourself or others. If you have concerns, please see a licensed healthcare professional.

For more information, visit:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

Autism National Committee (AUTCOM)

Autism Network International (ANI)

Autism Research Institute (ARI)

Autism Society of America

Autism Speaks, Inc.

MAAP Services for Autism, Asperger Syndrome, and PDD

For more notable people, dates, celebrations and ideas for your school nutrition operations, visit schoolnutrition.org/PromoCalendar.

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