2nd April – World Autism Awareness Day
Autism spectrum disorder, more commonly named autism, is a wide spectrum of conditions expressed by repetitive behaviors, challenges in social skills, and verbal and nonverbal communication. Also, it is very important to emphasize all the strengths and special talents that autism can bring out in an individual. Autism is not easy to diagnose, especially because there are so many subtypes of it, and every person with autism has a unique set of strengths and challenges. Signs of autism can appear as early as 18 months old, but there have been many cases where people live all their lives undiagnosed, and often have lots of issues throughout life, caused by a lack of possibilities, understanding, and adjustments to their surroundings.
However, as the number of people with autism grows, awareness, inclusivity, and also do, and autism has become easier to diagnose. Unfortunately, there are no official numbers to show the population of people with autism in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but researches in the USA show that there are 1 in 59 kids born diagnosed with this disorder.
Unfortunately, even though the number of kids with autism has grown, their status in the educational, social, and health care system had not significantly improved. Inclusion in schools is still in its' beginning stages, and parents in Bosnia and Herzegovina often have to go through a lot of effort to provide their kids assistants in schools, because teachers hardly ever can focus on giving enough attention to kids with autism, while maintaining their care for the rest of the class.
The pandemic has also had a huge effect on every aspect of autistic people's lives, but it has taken a big toll on the segment of education. All the usual programs of inclusion slow down or completely stop, while the progress that has been made stops, or even declines.
So what can we do to help?
The effect of people individually can often be underestimated, but it is quite exquisite and helpful. Every act of kindness and help toward people with autism is a big leap toward acceptance, better understanding, and more opportunities for their health, education, and social life, such as:
- Providing support, help, free education for people with autism
- Providing advocacy and raising awareness about issues of people with autism
- Funding research, support groups, and purchasing from small businesses owned by autistic individuals
- Employing autistic people and providing various job opportunities
Written by: Nađa Čelik, a student at the Faculty of traffic and communication, University of Sarajevo