Mental Health Awareness
National Autism Month
The Autism Society, the oldest autism organization, celebrates Autism Acceptance Month in April. The 2021 theme is "Celebrate Differences" and focuses on providing information and resources for communities to be more aware of autism, promote acceptance, and be more inclusive in everyday life.
Autism is a complex, lifelong developmental disability that typically appears during early childhood and can impact a person’s social skills, communication, relationships, and self-regulation. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum condition” that affects people differently and to varying degrees.
While there is currently no known single cause of autism, early diagnosis helps a person receive the support and services that they need, which can lead to a quality life filled with opportunity.
Autism is characterized in the DSM-V by:
- Persistent differences in communication, interpersonal relationships, and social interaction across different environments
What this can look like: Being nonverbal or having atypical speech patterns, having trouble understanding nonverbal communication, difficulty making and keeping friends, difficulty maintaining typical back-and-forth conversational style
- Restricted and repetitive behavior, patterns, activities and interests
What this can look like: Repeating sounds or phrases (echolalia), repetitive movements, preference for sameness and difficulty with transition or routine, rigid or highly restricted and intense interests, extreme sensitivity to or significantly lower sensitivity to various sensory stimuli
According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, which is used by clinicians to diagnose autism, these core features of autism must be present in early childhood but may not fully manifest until social demands exceed the person’s capacity to cope with them, and challenges may be masked by learned coping strategies.
In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued its ADDM autism prevalence report. The report concluded that the prevalence of autism had risen to 1 in every 59 – twice as great as the 2004 rate of 1 in 125. The spotlight shining on autism, as a result, has opened opportunities for the nation to consider how to serve people on the autism spectrum and their families.
Autism impacts an individual throughout the lifespan. However, research shows that early diagnosis can lead to improved quality of life. For more information on developmental milestones, visit the CDC’s “Learn the Signs. Act Early” site. Here are some signs to look for:
- Speaks later than typical or not at all (nonverbal)
- Repetition in language or movement, such as repeating the same word or sounds, hand flapping, or any repeated movement
- Atypical nonverbal communication, including avoiding eye contact, giving few facial expressions, or having a monotone
- Prefers solitary or parallel play rather than engaging in associative or cooperative play with other children
- Extremely distressed by changes, including new foods or changes in schedule
- Preference for predictable, structured play over spontaneous or make-believe play
- Strong, persistent interest on specific topic, part of a toy, or item
To learn more about autism at every age, visit Autism Through the Lifespan.
National Child Abuse Prevention Month
Child Abuse Prevention Month is an opportunity to learn about the signs of child abuse and how to prevent it.
For more information, click here.
Wear Blue on Thursday, April 1, 2021
GROWING A BETTER TOMORROW FOR ALL CHILDREN, TOGETHER
“Every day, we help positive childhood experience take root!”
- Children are locally grown. We work together to cultivate relationships, connections, and environments that help every child thrive.
- We harvest what we sow. We plant seeds of support for all children to yield healthier adults with abundant futures.
- Our work is rooted in science. We know positive childhood experiences in nurturing environments provide fertile ground for physical and mental health, learning, and social skills to flourish.
- We unearth the possibilities. We focus on innovation every day to give every child what they need and to build bountiful, safe communities.
- Planning and purpose create common ground. We share resources equitably, expand access to services, and balance conditions for positive childhood experiences to enrich every community.
- We tend and replenish the soil. We offer homegrown solutions and hardy support to protect what we grow in all elements.
- Hope and commitment are powerful fertilizers. We combine the promise of a better tomorrow with our resolve to nourish all children and their families in every season.
Information taken directly from the CDC about Preventing Child Abuse (March 25, 2021):
Everyone can help prevent child abuse and neglect and promote positive childhood experiences by supporting children and families where you live and work.
Parents and caregivers:
Parenting is hard work! There are many things you can do to create positive childhood experiences.
- Establish a routine. Children feel secure and thrive when the environment is structured for them.
- Praise your child when she does something right. The more you praise a behavior, the more likely it is your child will behave the same way again.
- Pay attention to your child when he is trying to communicate with you. Giving him your full attention will make him feel like you care about what he has to say.
- Set aside time each day to talk and play with your child. Creating a special time lets your child know she is important and strengthens the bond between the two of you.
- Check out CDC’s Essentials for Parenting Toddlers and Preschoolers! This website can help you handle common parenting challenges and improve skills so you can enjoy helping your child grow.
We know that every child and every parent is unique. You may face many different situations and challenges every day. It’s ok to ask for help.
- Reach out to babysitters, family members, or close friends.
- Discuss your concerns with your child’s doctor.
- Find out if your community offers support groups or programs parents and caregivers.
Friends, family, and neighbors:
As a friend or neighbor, you can develop nurturing, supportive relationships with the children in your life. Offer to babysit, make a meal, or drive a parent or child where they need to go.
As a coworker, you can listen and support your colleagues by encouraging them to take breaks or seek additional help if needed. You can also offer to help with their workload.
We can all recognize challenges that families face and offer support and encouragement to reduce stress. Everyone can promote social norms that discourage violence and help ensure the safety of all members of a community.
- Let people know that violence is unacceptable and steps will be taken to protect the victim of violence.
- Encourage people to stand up and speak up, if they can safely do so, when a person is being harassed or hurt or needs support.
We can also support community programs and policies that provide safe and healthy conditions for all children and families.
- Examples include supporting family friendly work policies like paid leave and flexible work schedules and supporting policies that strengthen household financial security based on the best available evidence.
National Month of Hope
April is National Month of Hope so take a deep breath, clear your mind, and visualize a new situation, whether it is about your health, a relationship, or your career. Don’t forget to add a smile as you open your heart with hope.
Bringing hope to someone can take many forms. Being a positive role model in the life of a child or providing a community a foundation for future endeavors both provide hope for the future. Lift the spirits of a friend suffering from a medical issue or volunteer at a local homeless shelter. We are each able to bring a ray of hope in our own ways by contributing wisdom, time, kindness and when possible donate to charities that make the impossible possible.
Everyone needs a little hope now and then. Spread a little sunshine their way and bring some hope into their lives.
❖ Volunteer by reading to children in schools
❖ Experience meaningful and healthy communication with loved ones, family, friends, co-workers, and colleagues
❖ Giving of time, food, and money to help families in need
❖ Minister to those incarcerated by writing letters and visiting
❖ Post on social media words of hope #NationalHopeMonth
❖ Sharing your story of overcoming with those who are going through hard times
❖ Lending a helping hand to those in need
❖ Cleaning up areas where there is trash such as parks and beaches
❖ Spend a day with the homeless whether on the streets in shelters, etc. “Unless you walk a mile in their shoes you won’t know how to help!”
Taken directly from the National Day Calendar
National Day of Hope
National Day of Hope is celebrated on the first Wednesday of every April. This year, the National Day of Hope is observed on April 4. It is marked during National Child Abuse Prevention Month to dedicate to Child help National Day of Hope. Children around the world are often made to suffer from abuse and neglect. Abuse can be physical or verbal maltreatment, injury, assault, violation, rape, or other types of aggression. This day is a reminder for everyone to help the children in need throughout the world. Anyone can bring hope to other life by being a positive role model and also by living as a good example for the kids around. The primary purpose of the day is to strive to stop child abuse and neglect.