Frontline Initiative Autism Spectrum Disorder

Frontline Notes

Welcome to our Frontline Initiative issue on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). An estimated 1.5 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide are affected by autism, making it more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined. In honor of Autism Awareness Month, we bring you a variety of perspectives related to effectively supporting the unique needs of individuals with ASD.

Robin Hickey and Tom Harmon provide an overview of the characteristics of ASD and explain why autism is considered a spectrum disorder in our cover story, Celebrate Autism: It’s Autism Awareness Month! Lynette Henderson, PhD, debunks some common myths associated with ASD. Information is provided on the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), including changes that can be expected. Jennifer Hall-Lande, PhD, shares practical direct support strategies that are related to the unique challenges experienced by people with autism.

For some Direct Support Professionals (DSPs), supporting individuals with ASD may be a completely new and unfamiliar experience. One DSP describes difficult first days on the job in the heartfelt story, So, what got you into this field? And Janice Eagan shares her insightful perspective as a parent, which you may find particularly meaningful as you consider the families you work with. You may also be moved and inspired as you learn about Maja Toudal’s perspectives of self-advocacy in Aspie or NT? The pros and cons of acting neurotypical.

Many individuals with autism need supports to be fully included in their communities throughout their lifespan. Such supports may include things like transition services or supported employment. Kris Foss from Ability Beyond Disability shares her organization’s innovative model of employment for individuals with ASD, Roses for Autism Jennifer Reinke describes important federal and state policy initiatives around ASD, around ASD, and Annie Johnson Sirek discusses the barriers that adults with ASD face in accessing support through state Medicaid services.

There are many different beliefs about the cause(s) of and most effective interventions for autism. In this issue, we present some of these different perspectives and experiences. However, Frontline Initiative does not endorse any specific cause or intervention. Please note that the terms ‘ASD’ and ‘autism’ are used interchangeably throughout the issue.

We hope you will enjoy this issue as you learn more about supporting individuals with ASD.