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Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month: Helping youth, adults with autism reach their full potential

Autism advocate Temple Grandin once said, “There needs to be a lot more emphasis on what a child can do instead of what he cannot do.”

During Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month in April, Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health wants to highlight the accomplishments, strengths and contributions of youth and adults living with autism, and promote acceptance and inclusion in schools, workplaces and communities.

“We want to support children, adolescents and adults with autism in achieving their full and unique potential,” said Devereux Executive Director of Autism Services Todd Harris, Ph.D. “At Devereux, our autism programs are designed to help improve the quality of life for these individuals. We use evidence-based practices; engage our youth, adults – and their families – in every aspect of treatment; and support social skill development, which is essential for building relationships and securing and maintaining meaningful employment. Our ultimate goal is for those we serve to lead fulfilling, productive and socially-connected lives.”

Emphasizing acceptance

In recent years, organizations across the United States have shifted from using the term “awareness” to “acceptance” in reference to the monthlong dedication to individuals with autism.

“The shift in terminology aims to foster greater acceptance in our communities,” noted Devereux National Director of Family Engagement Amy Kelly, MBA, MNM, whose daughter, Annie, has autism and intellectual and developmental disabilities. “Many self-advocates hold the position that they do not want to be changed, and would like to be accepted as they are – autism and all. Although my daughter, Annie, cannot express her thoughts to me about this, I am in agreement. Acceptance is ultimately what we need to fully support those with an autism diagnosis to live their best lives. In addition, at Devereux, we believe there can be no acceptance, if there is no awareness of autism and the challenges many individuals and families face.”

CDC’s developmental milestones

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in every 44 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), with doctors looking at a child’s behavior and development to make a diagnosis.

Recently, the CDC updated the developmental milestone checklists in its “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” program, which helps parents identify autism and developmental delays in their children. Previously, the checklists used 50th percentile milestones, meaning only half of children were expected to achieve the milestone at a given age. The revised developmental milestones identify the behaviors that 75 percent or more of children can be expected to achieve at a given age.

Additional changes to the CDC’s guidance include:

  • Adding checklists for children ages 15 and 30 months so there is now a checklist for every checkup visit from 2 months to 5 years of age
  • Identifying additional social and emotional milestones that children should meet, including smiling on their own to get your attention at 4 months old
  • Removing vague language, such as "may" or "begins," when referring to certain milestones
  • Removing duplicate milestones
  • Providing new, open-ended questions to use in discussions between families and pediatricians. (Is there anything your child does or does not do that concerns you?)
  • Revising and expanding tips and activities to promote development

About Devereux’s autism services …

Devereux offers a wide variety of autism services that build on each individual’s strengths, needs and preferences. Programs include:

Children and adolescents

Transition-age young adults


“As part of our commitment to providing the highest quality care, we are continually looking for ways to enhance our programs and services,” Harris shared. “Recently, we launched a new short-term residential treatment program at Devereux Texas that is a replication of our proven Short-Term Autism Intensive Residential Services (STAIRS) model. Other centers, including Devereux Arizona are working to develop similar programs. In addition, within the next couple of years, we will be rolling out a new learning program for our behavioral health professionals who directly serve individuals with ASD and intellectual and developmental disabilities. We also are working to develop a parent training program, a remote-based training program designed to teach parents how to instruct their children at home, help them build skills and effectively manage challenging behaviors.”

Support youth, adults with autism

Want to help youth and adults with ASD learn and grow? Please consider making a donation to Devereux. Your generous gift will support our autism programs and services, and help those in our care thrive.

Learn more about Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health’s autism programs and services.


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