Autism Awareness
Nicole Scicutella making a cake with her autistic twin cousins: Marco (left) and Dean (right). (Photo courtesy of Nicole Scicutella)

by Victoria Wresilo

April may been known for its showers that bring May flowers, but it’s also Autism Awareness Month.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development according to autismspeaks.org. According to the American Center for Disease Control, one in every 68 children fall within the Autism spectrum.

The spectrum has many different categories and is often misunderstood.

“Some people in this world see a child with autism and will maybe laugh or shake their head,” said sophomore Nicole Scicutella. “Just because they have a disease does not mean they are any different from anyone else.”

Scicutella grew up with two younger twin cousins, Marco and Dean, both diagnosed with the disorder.

“Marco and Dean were diagnosed with autism at eighteen months. They have pervasive development disorder, which is a high functioning autism,” said Scicutella

Growing up in a family where they encountered Autism helped her to better understand the disease.

Since Scicutella grew up around her autistic cousins, she saw special needs differently than others who do not have a family member with autism.

“I’m majoring in childhood education with a certification in special education,” Scicutella said. “My family and I support autism highly. But not just autism, any sort of special needs.”

While students like Scicutella learn about autism through their families, other students learn through watching from a different angle.

“They are stuck in a world of their own and no one understands it,” said senior psychology major Brittany Molyneaux. “That’s what I want to help with.”

Molyneaux interned at the Anderson Center for Autism and said it was an overall rewarding experience.

“Just seeing the smiles on their faces when they would get something right during school, or when they got a chance to go swimming (which they love), made all the aggressive behaviors I had to endure worth it,” said Molyneaux.

Aggressive behavior is just one characteristic of autism, according to austismspeaks.org. Autistic children may also have trouble communicating in social situations.

In more extreme cases, people who fall under the spectrum will have repetitive behavior and a lack of spoken language.

“Language for Marco and Dean can get frustrating but you catch on after a while,” Scicutella said. “Sometimes they will do gestures, but now they are using words.”

Communication, or lack thereof, is a source of frustration for Autistic children.

“Even though they might have aggressive behaviors, it is only because they are frustrated because they cannot communicate,” Molyneaux said. “Imagine having all your thoughts, needs, and desires in your head and being unable to tell others what you are thinking.”

Both women agree that autism is misunderstood; however, they think others can learn from the disease like they have.

“To me the meaning of autism goes deeper than just the definition,” Scicutella said.

To learn more about autism visit autismspeaks.org