Autism Awareness Month 2012

April is Autism Awareness Month, a time to focus attention on those with autism and related pervasive developmental disorders. The Centers for Disease Control just released a study estimating that 1 in 88 children in the United States have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder -- up from an estimate of 1 in 156 ten years ago. According to the CDC, only part of this growth is related to increased awareness and early diagnosis. Recent efforts in early detection and educational intervention have shown encouraging results, bringing a measure of hope to often difficult family situations. Relatives and caretakers will tell you that working with those with autism can be both the most frustrating and the most rewarding experience of their lives. My only brother is autistic, and my family and I know these difficulties and rewards well. He's an adult now, living happily in a group home much like the one featured in the final four photos below by Kevin Wellenius. Many thanks to the families and photographers who are sharing their personal, intimate photos here today. [24 photos total]

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An autistic child peers from between curtains at the Consulting Center for Autism in Amman, Jordan, on March 30, 2010, one of the few places in the country that helps children with the condition. (Reuters/Ali Jarekji) #
Christopher Astacio stands in the doorway watching, as his daughter Cristina, 2, recently diagnosed with a mild form of autism, plays in her bedroom on March 28, 2012 in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews) #
The statue of Christ the Redeemer above Rio de Janeiro lit by blue lights during the Autism Speaks "Light It Up Blue" campaign on April 2, 2012. (Fernanda Calfat/Getty Images for Autism Speaks) #
Participants in the 10th Annual Walk Now For Autism Speaks at the Rose Bowl on April 21, 2011 in Pasadena, California. (Andrew D. Bernstein/Autism Speaks via Getty Images) #
Volunteers announce the final total of money raised by the 10th Annual Walk Now For Autism Speaks at the Rose Bowl on April 21, 2011 in Pasadena, California. (Andrew D. Bernstein/Autism Speaks via Getty Images) #
A boy relaxes with lights in a "Snoezelen" room during yoga classes for children in Lima, Peru, on January 27, 2012. These rooms are specially designed to deliver stimuli to the different senses using lighting effects, color, sounds, music, and are used mostly for people with autism, brain injuries or developmental disabilities, according to Paulina Contin, the instructor of the classes. (Reuters/Pilar Olivares) #
A boy, suffering from autism, reaches toward a beluga whale in Changfeng Park in Shanghai, China, on December 21, 2005. (Reuters/Aly Song) #
Aspiritech co-founder Moshe Weitzberg (left) works with employees, from left, Katie Levin, Rick Alexander and Jamie Specht, at the nonprofit enterprise that specializes in finding software bugs as they test a new program in Highland Park, Illinois, on September 8, 2011. Aspiritech hires only people with autism disorders. Traits that make great software testers _intense focus, comfort with repetition, memory for detail _ also happen to be characteristics of autism. Marc Lazar, Aspiritech's autism specialist works in the background. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green) #
Ozark Center for Autism implementer Mellissa Stiffler works with student Payton Coffee, 3, during class in a temporary facility in Joplin, Missouri, on June 14, 2011. The school was destroyed by a tornado that wiped out much of the community a month earlier. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) #
A tourist boat sails on River Danube as the dome of the Parliament building is bathed in blue light on the occasion of the World Autism Awareness Day, April 2, 2012, in Budapest, Hungary. (AP Photo/MTI, Balazs Mohai) #
Immaculate Murga, who is autistic, practices his letters and numbers in a classroom at the Little Rock Inclusive Early Childhood Development Center in Kenya's capital Nairobi, on March 15, 2012. Little Rock is one of the few schools providing education to children with special needs in the sprawling Kibera slums. (Reuters/Samantha Sais) #
A Romanian child suffering from autism smiles as he holds balloons during a rally dedicated to World Autism Awarness Day, in Bucharest, on April 2, 2011. Around one hundred people gathered downtown with colorful balloons, a symbol of the diversity of people who suffer from autism. (Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/Getty Images) #
Ethan Johnson, left, finds Elliot, right, in the closet while playing hide and seek at Elliot's home on November 19th in Eagan, Minnesota. Both boys have autism and their play dates are part of therapy that teaches them to interact with other children. This photo was originally part of a story in the Minnesota Daily: Treating Autism. Original photo here. (© Jules Ameel) #
An autistic child walks next to a teacher during a therapy session at the Dora Alonso Autismo Center in Havana, Cuba, on February 11, 2008. (Reuters/Enrique De La Osa) #
Professional golfer Ernie Els of South Africa, with his son Ben who suffers from Autism, during the Els for Autism Pro-am at The PGA National Golf Club on March 12, 2012 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (David Cannon/Getty Images) #
Thara Marie Santiago, a girl with autism, rehearses inside a washroom before she performs in Autismusical, a free public concert sponsored by a mall as a venue for individuals who have autism to showcase their different talents as well as to highlight world autism awareness day, inside a mall in Quezon City, Philippines, on April 2, 2009. (Reuters/John Javellana) #
An autistic child wears a toy mask as he plays at the Consulting Center for Autism in Amman, Jordan, on March 30, 2010. (Reuters/Ali Jarekji) #
Great Buddha of Hyogo is illuminated in blue light to mark World Austin Awareness Day on April 2,2012 in Kobe, Japan. Around 2,000 iconic buildings and landmarks around the world are shining a blue light during the Autism Speaks third annual Light It Up Blue Campaign to show support of Autism Awareness Day and Month, raising awareness of autism. (Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images for Autism Speaks) #
Photographer and father Jason Wilkie, on this portrait of his son: "Inside that mind. I wish I could see at times. I think it would be fascinating to know what goes on in there." Original photo here. (© Jason Wilkie) #
An autistic child cuddles a pony during a training session in a club in Paris, France, on November 8, 2003. (Reuters/Philippe Wojazer) #
(1 of 4) Since 1984, Curt Brown (standing) has been a foster parent to several adult men with autism, living with them in his home in Gardiner, Maine. He has forged a deep familial bond with many of the residents, but the commitment has also come at the expense of other goals, including personal relationships. As he turned 65, Curt confronted what lay ahead for him, as well as for the seven men living with him. Here, a group evening meal is emblematic of the family environment Curt has created for his residents. Around the table are (clockwise from left) Graham Weston, Ben Brendahl, Lee Calderwood, Keith Keller, Aaron Bridgham, Timmy Barton, and John Williamson. (© Kevin Wellenius) #
(2 of 4) After finishing the evening chores, Curt rests briefly as Graham Weston, a resident since 1994, stands at his customary spot in the kitchen. "It's a lot of years," Curt says. While there have been many theories about how best to provide for adults with autism, "ultimately what we found was the most successful was making a cohesive family unit... and treating everybody as a valid family member," says Curt. (© Kevin Wellenius) #
(3 of 4) "I love you," Curt says to Aaron after moving his belongings to a new home. In addition to Aaron, three of the other residents moved to a new home in Rome, Maine. The three remaining residents continue to live at Curt's home in Gardiner, but its operation has been taken over by an agency. (© Kevin Wellenius) #
(4 of 4) Lee Calderwood (left) and Curt Brown hug in the living room of Curt's home in Gardiner, Maine. "It's a life pretty full of love," says Curt. "Who gets to say 'good night' and 'I love you' to two or three or four people every single night of the week?" (© Kevin Wellenius) #

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