Havre, Montana – On the evening of April 1st, Northern Montana Hospital will be lit up blue in honor of Autism Awareness month and World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD). Iconic landmarks around the globe, including the Empire State Building in New York City and the Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia will be among the many structures that will be lit up in bright blue on this night to bring awareness to autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders.
“Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms used to identify a group of complex disorders of brain development.” says Dr. Chris Laviola, Psychologist at Northern Montana Medical Group West. “These disorders are classified by degrees of difficulty in social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and repetitive disorders. The term that is used to describe these levels is “on the spectrum”. While ASD can often be associated with intellectual disability, physical disability, sleep disorders and gastrointestinal issues, some children with ASD can have above average abilities in visual skills, math or art.”
According to “Autism Speaks”, an Autism Awareness Organization, autism appears to start in very early brain development. However, most children will not be diagnosed until the symptoms of autism appear between the ages of 2-4. They believe that an earlier diagnosis may improve outcomes for the disorder so increasing awareness plays an important role in this process.
About 40 percent of individuals on the spectrum have average to above average intellectual abilities. These people play an important, contributing role in our society. However, others with autism have significant disabilities and are unable to live independently. Jennifer Durward, APRN, Psychiatry, also from Northern Montana Medical Group – West adds, “Awareness of autism helps to improve the lives of all those on the autism spectrum; some because of advances in the understanding of the disease; some by achieving acceptance, respect and support.”