Thursday, 05 April 2012 09:30
By Tom Racunas
April is Autism Awareness Month. Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder are general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication and repetitive behaviors.
ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination, difficulties with attention, and physical health issues such as gastrointestinal disturbances and sleep. Some persons with ASD excel in visual skills, music, math and art. It is the fastest growing significant disability in the United States with as many as 1 in every 110 children now identified with this disorder. This is a 600 percent increase in prevalence over the past two decades. Studies show that autism is three to four times more common in boys than girls.
It is safe to say that every parish has autism-affected families. It is the mission of the Ministry with Persons with Disabilities to help each parish keep all parishioners actively involved in parish life regardless of type, severity or age of onset of a disability. Visual supports, visual schedules and social stories can be created to support a person with ASD in attendance at Mass.
These supports can be individually designed and constructed to meet the unique needs of each person. For more information, contact the office of the ministry at (316) 269-3900 ext. 143 or 157.
Racunas is the director of the diocesan Ministry with Persons with Disabilities.