Spotlight on learning differences

The month of April is Autism Awareness Month. The designation was made nearly a quarter of a century ago by the Autism Society, according to their website, to create national awareness of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and its associated challenges. The five key elements of success are acceptance, awareness, action, inclusion, and appreciation.

Autism, or ASD, is a disability that is characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication and learning differences.  Autism is a medical diagnosis. The condition is believed to be caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences. The term “spectrum” refers to wide variation of challenges and strengths people with the diagnosis may possess. 

Richland student David Hoag has mild autism. He explains what the diagnosis means to him. “A different way of looking into the world and things. Maybe like a greater potential but more struggle in areas that others find easier,” he said.  

Hoag says he has a hard time with social interaction and that he feels uncertain about the things he has to do, but he’s learning to overcome those challenges. “I observe what others are doing and try to copy them on what they do right,” said Hoag. “Additionally, I practice everything and improve my skills.”

There is no cure or treatment for autism but there are educational, behavioral, speech and family therapies for those who are seeking assistance

Here are the facts: One third of the people with autism are nonverbal and one third have intellectual disability. Autism is more common in boys than girls with one in 42 prevalence in boys and one in 189 girls.

People with autism can participate in many activities including sharing their thoughts and ideas on issues, doing puzzles, watching movies and getting involved in their communities and interacting with families, friends and educators. 

Blue is the designated color for Autism Awareness Month. You can show your awareness by being supportive and encouraging of people who have autism or other disabilities throughout the year. It helps people with disabilities succeed in life and with their education as they overcome fears and certain challenges. More information about autism is available online at