CORPUS CHRISIT, Texas — April is Autism Acceptance Month, observed to highlight the increasing number of individuals who are identified with it, and raise awareness for support services available.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in 36 children in the United States is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).Over the next decade, data indicates an estimated 707,00 to more than a Million teens will enter adulthood and age out of school based autism services.
A Corpus Christi man is hoping to provide support and advocate for those with ASD. He prays daily for those on the spectrum and hopes to live in a world filled with acceptance. His name is Dustin Cronon. You might see him at City Hall, participating in public comment. Since fall of 2022, he's been working to share his knowledge with community leaders.
He said it's a cause important to him, because he too is living life on the spectrum. Cronon said he knows what it's like to be misunderstood.
"When I was living in the Austin area, I remember getting stopped a few times for speeding. And they thought I was high, or drunk or non-compliant." explained Cronon.
Other times in his life, he felt left out. He said he had a hard time making relationships in his youth and did not have romantic relationships early in life either. He also said he was bullied as a child. Fast-forward to the present, at 33-years-old, Cronon said he's doing things he never thought he would be able to do. When he's not at City Hall advocating for Autism, he's working at a job he loves. Another experience he never through he'd discover is fatherhood.
"I'm a very proud dad." he said with glee. "It's very rare that somebody on the spectrum is a parent."
His son Matthew Ryan is now three-years-old. He also has autism. Cronon hopes the work he does as a community activist will make the world a better place for his son and everyone else on the spectrum.
"I want to create a better future for everyone and it's all important that we are all in the world and understand each other." he said.
When Cronon shares his knowledge with community leaders he explains to them that it's important to know the signs and symptoms of autism.
Some signs include:
- Lack of eye contact
- Trouble articulating or having conversations
- Social anxiety
He also explains that some people with autism are sensitive to certain smells, tastes, or loud noise. He believes the best way to communicate with someone with autism is to try to make sure they understand what you are saying. He also said it's important to speak in a soft voice or tone, and to make them feel safe.
For more information on Autism facts and data click here.