Autism Awareness Month: Different perspectives of Autism Spectrum Disorder

By Loren Rhoades, Assistant Features Editor   (Photo by Jacob Factor/The Bison)

Having understanding is the first step to bringing awareness to an issue. April is Autism Awareness Month, which is intended to bring such awareness. Autism is a neurological disorder that effects a person’s social skills, communication and behaviors.

Brady Birdwell is a 19-year-old boy who was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. Due to this disorder, Birdwell was nonverbal until the age of five.

Once he was able to speak, he spoke through funny phrases, phrases that his family and friends would paint on dishes as memories of things he had been able to verbalize thus far.

These phrases are what started the Brady Speaks Foundation.

The Brady Speaks Foundation was started by Birdwell’s aunt Cindi and his mom Debi to help parents with autistic children to gain the help they need to give them proper care.

Help given by the foundation includes therapy, funding and in-home supplies.

“Every parent wants to help their child but doesn’t have the resources. We want people to know we have them, and we are willing to help them as much as possible,” Debi said.

The start of the foundation all came about when Birdwell’s family realized they had the ability to help others and to share knowledge on the disorder.

Debi said she knows it sometimes feels hopeless as a parent trying to raise an autistic child and that is why they are there to help, because they want parents to know that it will get better.

There is currently no cure for autism, but it is treatable. Birdwell is a great example of the progress that can be made through treatment.

At a young age his sensitivity issues were extremely heightened. He couldn’t handle loud noise without having headphones, had a hard time focusing in large crowds, and couldn’t always handle being around others for very long.

After receiving different types of therapy and the support of family and friends, Birdwell was able to walk on stage during his graduation in front of thousands of people with a big smile on his face.

Debi said that their whole family was in tears by the end of graduation because they all knew what it took to get Birdwell to that point. She said that even in the tough times just to remember that the autism doesn’t define who the child is.

“You embrace them for who they are, and who they are meant to be,” Debi said. “If Brady were different than the Brady I know and love, I wouldn’t know him.”

Senior creative writing major Abigail Chadwick said similar things about her experiences with Asperger Syndrome, which is a social disorder on the autism spectrum that isn’t as noticeable at a young age.

Chadwick said that when initially finding out she had Aspergers, she was angry because she didn’t like the idea of seeming different.

After realizing she wasn’t the only one going through it, it was nice to know she wasn’t alone, even if Aspergers affects every person differently.

“There’s a saying, if you’ve met one person with Aspergers, you’ve met one person with Asperger’s. Everyone is different,” Chadwick said.

Aspergers specifically effects a person socially rather than cognitively like Autism.

This just makes social interaction more difficult as well as making it harder to correctly show and control emotions. Each person with Aspergers deals with the difficulty differently.

Chadwick said her stress and frustration mainly came out through meltdowns that lasted up to an hour or so. She said that it’s beneficial because it releases the emotions that have built up over time.

Chadwick has learned how to deal with these emotions mainly through research. This is how she learned that she is not alone. She said the research she has done has not only given validation to different experiences she has had but has also given her better understanding of herself.

The research Chadwick has found wouldn’t be where it is today if it weren’t for Autism Awareness.

The awareness that has grown has helped to teach people with the disorders as well as their family and friends what they actually are and how to move forward through them

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