Mayor’s Message: National Autism Awareness Month

SPEAK of Voorhees is the parent-faculty association for families with children with special needs in the Voorhees Township Public School District.

April is National Autism Awareness Month. First declared by the Autism Society in April 1970, the purpose istopromote autism awareness, inclusion and self-determination for all.

Autism is a complex mental developmental condition, characterized by difficulties in the way a person communicates and interacts with people. Autism can be present from birth or form during early childhood and has no single known cause.

There are many subtypes of autism, most influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, each person on the spectrum has a distinct set of strengths and challenges. The ways in which they learn, think and problem-solve can range from highly skilled to severely challenged. Some on the autism spectrum may require significant support in their daily lives, while others may need less support and, in some cases, live entirely independently. According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects an estimated one in every 59 children in the United States today.

While no two people on the spectrum have the same set of symptoms, there are common characteristics that include impaired social skills or problems interacting with others. Some children on the spectrum do not have adequate playing or speaking skills. One end of the spectrum may exhibit clumsy behavior, being out of sync with those around them and use inappropriate or offensive language. At the other end of the spectrum a person may not be interested in others.

Those on the spectrum may find it harder to show empathy to others, although they can be taught to acknowledge other’s feelings. In some cases, they do not like physical contact such as hugs, tickling or physical play. Those on the spectrum often display repetitive behavior in performing the same action many times over. Any change to their behavior or routine can be unsettling. Other characteristics of autism include an unpredictable learning rate, obsessions and physical tics.

National Autism Awareness Month strives tobring people across the globe together to improve understanding and encourages friends and collaborators to become partners in movement toward acceptance and appreciation. A better-informed public will be more empathetic and supportive toward those on the spectrum.

SPEAK (Special Needs Parents Educators and Kids) of Voorhees is the parent-faculty association for families with children with special needs in the Voorhees Township Public School District. Founded in March 2009, SPEAK addresses issues impacting special needs children living in our community by providing support, encouragement and important information and education for families and others who may be involved in the care of a special needs child.For more information about SPEAK of Voorhees, including teaching resources, fundraisers and sponsorship information, visit www.speaksj.org.

For more information on National Autism Awareness Month, visit www.autism-society.org.

**The Voorhees Breakfast Rotary’s Annual Spring Egg Hunt will be held on Saturday, April 20, at Lions Lake Park. The fun begins at 10:30 a.m. with games, prizes and a DJ. The egg hunt will begin at 11 a.m. Children from age 1 through fifth grade are invited and prizes will be given to all age groups. Please bring your own baskets. For more information visit www.voorheesbreakfastrotary.com.

**Camden County will be sponsoring a household hazardous waste collection program on April 13 from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Collingswood Public Works Complex, 713 N. Atlantic Avenue. The County will also be conducting a recycling event for electronics on April 27 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Lindenwold at the Camden County Public Works Complex. For more information, call the Division of Environmental Affairs at (856) 858-5241 or check the County’s website at www.camdencounty.com.