GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Saturday and all month long people across the world are highlighting the need for greater support for children and adults living with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
“It’s very prevalent in society across race, ethnicity, gender, you know. It’s here and to accept it and understand it, I think leads to better outcomes for individuals, better interactions with peers,” Emily White, License Behavioral Analyst at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, said.
More people are getting diagnosed with autism due to the growing awareness of the disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although signs may be detected in early childhood, it’s often not diagnosed until much later. That was the case for 49-year-old Kevin Gardenier, founder of Purposeful Wealth Strategies.
“We are finding that there are a lot more people like me out there,” he said.
Gardenier found out about his autism diagnosis, or “label” as he prefers to call it, four years ago. He began to realize the symptoms after dealing with a breakup.
He was committed to finding out more and decided to dig a little deeper by doing some online research.
After going to doctor, it took six months to complete a full assessment before he receives his “label” of which was new but wasn’t surprising.
“It explained my enter life,” he said.
As a young child, Gardenier says he had difficulty interacting with others and experienced sensory overload. No one ever though he had autism because he wasn’t experiencing any verbal or intellectual issues.
“Saying you don’t look autistic is at the top and I have heard that from friends. I have heard that from family,” Gardeneir said.
The Behavioral Analysts says children as young as 12 months can show signs of autism and early intervention is important in order to get ahead.
Those living with it are at different levels on the spectrum ranging from Level 1 to Level 3 which signifies the type of support they will need to function.
According to the CDC, there are nearly 6 million adults who are on the autism spectrum.
“Individuals are able to mask so that means being able to kind of learn from their environment, how to kind of cope in social situations and social settings. They’re diagnosed normally later on,” White said.
Gardenier has a Level 1 label which requires some support. Regardless of how much support is needed, Gardenier believes people should be more accepting of anyone who has it.
“Right now we are pushing for awareness which is great but a lot of times awareness doesn’t come with action,” he said. “There’s a different between knowing and doing.”
Even if you’re an adult who has learned of your diagnosis later in life, Gardenier says you should, “own it, live it and accept it. You’ll be a better version of ourselves.”
Purposeful Wealth Strategies will post information throughout the month on its Facebook page.