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News Channel5, Nashville: April rebranded from Autism "Awareness" to "Acceptance"

April 12, 2024, News Channel 5, Nashville: April is Autism Acceptance Month: Why rebranding from 'awareness' to 'acceptance' is important to note

HENDERONSVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Over the last couple of years, April has gone from being known as "Autism Awareness Month" to re-branding as "Autism Acceptance Month."

BlueSprig Clinical Director at the Hendersonville office Heather Mroczenski said thanks to social media, people are more aware of autism. However, now the focus is treating those on the spectrum with respect and giving them equal opportunities.

According to the CDC, one in 36 eight-year-old children were diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2020 in Tennessee. That was more than a 2 percent increase from 2018.

Mroczenski said she believes this increase is largely because more research and information is out there about the signs of autism.

Most signs appear in children between 2 and 3 years old, such as lack of speech, avoiding eye contact, regression, or repetitive behaviors.

She said people know to look for these signs now, and early detection is key to get kids in the right program to set them up for success in the future.

BlueSprig specializes in Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy for children up to 18 years old.

"The ABA of yesterday is a lot different from today," said Mroczenski. "The ABA of yesterday was focused on compliance and rigidity. And the ABA of today is focused on acceptance, inclusivity, ascent, giving autistic individuals a voice, and how to function independently. Not forcing them to fit into what we see as how it should be."

She said there are still some myths about autism she would like to dispel, such as the idea that autism is a disease that needs to be cured.

She also said more people are becoming aware of how autism appears in girls.

The CDC reported autism is four times more likely to be diagnosed in boys than girls.

However, Mroczenski said she has seen a shift. In the past, it was almost 90 percent boys seeking therapy services for their autism diagnosis. Now it is closer to half and half.

She said it often takes longer for girls to be diagnosed because girls "mask" their symptoms better than boys.

"A girl may be a teacher's favorite student but then she gets home and it's just really difficult for her parents because she was holding it together all day at school because that's what she was 'supposed' to do, and then at home her true self comes out and it's hard to hide it," said Mroczenski.

Heather said another myth she would like to dispel is that the way people who are on the spectrum cope is "wrong."

She said we all have different coping mechanisms, just some people's look different. That is where early intervention and therapy comes in to help manage.

She said the biggest thing people can do this Autism Acceptance Month is to continue to educate yoursel and others, debunking the myths, and supporting inclusion of those with autism.


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