April 2, 2015 will mark the eighth annual World Autism Awareness Day, kicking off Autism Awareness month here in the U.S. Autism is typically described as a spectrum of developmental disorders, which varies in both its symptoms and severity from one person to the next. As the saying goes, if you’ve met one child with autism, you’ve met one child with autism.
Autism is often characterized by delays in communication and social interaction; rigid adherence to routines and “meltdowns” when the status quo is disrupted; repetitive, stereotypical movements; and fixated interests, among other symptoms. As Dr. Ami Klin, Director of the Marcus Autism Center, has written regarding the autism spectrum:
“The variability is immense. From individuals who are burdened by severe to profound intellectual disabilities to persons who are gifted and more competent than most in the community. From those who cannot speak to those who are loquacious. From those whose isolation is manifest by compete social withdrawal to those who cannot stop approaching others albeit at times awkwardly. From persons who are enchained by self-stimulating movements, rituals and self-injurious behaviors to those whose knowledge about circumscribed areas of knowledge or special skills are prodigious.”
Autism awareness is an issue close to our hearts here at Payne Law, not only because of our focus on education law, but also because we too have been touched by the rapidly rising rates of autism in recent years. Current estimates from the Centers for Disease Control show that 1 in every 68 children nationwide fall somewhere along the autism spectrum, with boys being five times more likely than girls to be diagnosed. In North Carolina, the prevalence is even higher, with 1 in every 58 children falling along the autism spectrum. In my home, our number is 2 out of 4.
Autism causes families to interact with the legal system in many ways throughout the life of an autistic person. Because of this and the increasing numbers of children diagnosed on the autism spectrum, many areas of the law are being impacted and changed by autism. According to Professor Daniela Caruso in her article “Autism in the U.S.: Social Movement and Legal Change”:
“Autism is transforming the way we think about disability; it is affecting the balance between medical insurance coverage and educational services; it is creating new markets that beg for regulatory intervention; it is challenging traditional assumptions about retribution and punishment; it is prompting a massive investment of public and private resources; it is changing the aesthetic of suffering, and in so doing, it is rearranging legislative priorities. . . . Autism’s growing presence in the judicial forum is a natural consequence of its notoriety. In turn, the movement draws strength from the fact that courts are increasingly busy figuring out what role to carve out for autism in the context of legal disputes. Judicial opinions play an important expressive function insofar as they contribute to the portrayal of autism as a phenomenon of growing importance, calling for individualized attention and ad-hoc solutions.”
Over the month of April, we will be blogging about several areas of the law and how the law affects, and is affected by, those with autism. We invite you to visit our website, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and read and share our blog as we do our part to raise autism awareness.
Join us as we Light Up the Law In Blue.