An average of 1 in 110 children live with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), which is a group of developmental disabilities that impact social and communication skills, as well as behavior, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Miranda Schor, a sixth-grader at , is one of those children.
"People with autism have a hard time expressing their feelings," she said. "They don't know how or they don't feel like it."
As part of National Autism Month, Miranda recently spoke about living with autism with the staff at and the board members of at their April meeting. It's just an example of how she's helping shed light on this disorder.
Figuring Out What Works
Part of managing her autism, Miranda says, is handling a lot of stuff in her head and often having a hard time dealing with all the information going in and out.
"I watch these YouTube videos, and I think they're funny. And then I'm always thinking about them," she said, adding that it can make staying on task difficult, especially at school.
One strategy she uses to help stay focused is wearing headphones that block out distractions in her classroom. A journal is always handy, too, and she fills it with drawings, stories and silly sayings, along with her frustrations. She also frequently uses a computer, so she can move at a faster pace.
"I don't waste as much time when I work on the computer, and it helps me get my work done faster, so I don't have homework to do at home," she said.
Miranda's mom, Amanda Schor, clarified that because autism is considered a spectrum disorder, experiences and abilities vary widely from person to person. And families often spend time dealing with related challenges, such as anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder because those things get in the way of treating the autism.
"For us right now, we're focusing on anger issues that arise because of situations," Amanda said. "The school has started breaking it down into stages and identifying the frustration levels, what they look like and what she needs to do at those levels (before things get out of control)."
"The thing that's working (for us) is creating a system where she is self-sufficient, because at some point she's going to have to manage this on her own," she added.
Searching for Understanding From Others
One of the most potentially debilitating aspects of autism is that it is an invisible disability, Amanda explained. Unlike a physical disability that can be obvious to other people, autistic children and their families are often subject to rude stares or comments when an outburst or strange behavior happens in public because people can't see anything obviously wrong. An autistic child on sensory overload might appear to the average person to be a bratty child throwing a temper tantrum.
"People look at me (in stores sometimes), and I'm sure think, 'She's a terrible mother.' It would be great if they could say, 'Is there something I could do to help?' or just leave us alone," Amanda said.
"I would want people to know that since autistic people have stronger senses that people should keep negative thoughts to themselves. They should just not hurt anybody no matter what," Miranda shared.
But people are people, and the average person doesn't always stop to think about what's below the surface in someone else's life. It might also be why, at this point, Miranda loves spending time with animals (she wants to be a veterinarian someday).
"I think that animals are the only people (sic) who can truly understand me without saying anything that's too complicated for me," Miranda said.