Local advocates say awareness about autism has significantly increased in recent years, but some misperceptions linger.
"Against popular belief, they are very loving kids," said Christine Lindgren, director of the Carson Kolzig Foundation's Responding to Autism Center in Kennewick.
"There are a lot of really unique things about them that are fabulous," she said. "They can really help you see life from a different perspective. It's just amazing."
That's why having World Autism Awareness Month in April remains important, she said.
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The foundation is sponsoring a number of activities during April designed to raise awareness, support families and educate the community about the autism spectrum.
The autism spectrum encompasses what are known as complex developmental disabilities that cause problems with social interaction and communication, according to the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development.
Symptoms can include issues with verbal and nonverbal communication or social behaviors such as the ability to share emotions, understand how others think and feel or have a conversation; and engaging in routine or repetitive behaviors such as repeating words or actions, obsessively following routines and schedules and playing in repetitive ways.
It was reported in recent days that the number of autism cases is on the rise -- likely because of better understanding of how to recognize symptoms, better diagnostic tools and more screenings.
Lindgren said sometimes people can misunderstand symptoms as a child misbehaving and not realize there's an underlying disorder.
"Autism is an invisible disorder," she said.
She hopes the events throughout April will help Tri-Citians understand a little better, particularly as the number of diagnoses rise.
Upcoming free events:
-- Noon to 4 p.m. Monday -- World Autism Awareness Day, CIC Building, WSU Tri-Cities, 2770 Crimson Way, Richland. Community resources, family activities, games, prizes and food.
-- 6 to 8 p.m. April 14 -- Autism family game night, Responding to Autism Center, 4206 W. 24th Ave., Suite 101, Kennewick.
-- 6:30 p.m. April 14 -- Temple Grandin movie night, Battelle Auditorium, 902 Battelle Blvd., Richland.
-- 6:30 p.m. April 20 -- Spectrum on Stage presentation, ACT Studio, 213 Wellsian Way, Richland.
-- 1 to 3 p.m. April 21 -- Autism Safety Day, Responding to Autism Center, 4206 W. 24th Ave., Suite 101, Kennewick. Learn about wandering, fingerprinting, first aid and other essential safety information for families of children with autism.
-- 4:30 to 6 p.m. April 26 -- Expression from the Spectrum, CIC Building art gallery, WSU Tri-Cities, 2770 Crimson Way, Richland. Exhibit of local artists with autism, including a silent auction to benefit the Responding to Autism Center and scholarships for WSU Tri-Cities students seeking special education credentials.
-- 1 to 3 p.m. April 29 -- Autism skate at Toyota Arena, 7016 W. Grandridge, Kennewick. Ice skating for children with autism.