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National Awareness Month
April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month, an opportunity to learn more about the disease, to help raise public awareness, and to seek out ways to help the cause. April 11, Parkinson’s Disease Day, is the birthday of James Parkinson, the English doctor who first described the disease in an 1817 essay. The red tulip was adopted as the symbol for Parkinson’s disease (PD) when a Dutch horticulturalist with PD, J.W.S. Van der Wereld, developed a red and white tulip after Dr. James Parkinson.
Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system most common in people over 50. The disorder is caused by the death of dopamine-containing cells in the brain, though what causes the cells to die is unknown. Movement related symptoms present themselves early in the onset of the disease. Among the most apparent symptoms are shaking, rigidness, slowed movement, and difficulty walking. Cognitive and behavioural problems usually arise as the disease progresses. Dementia often occurs in the late stages of Parkinson’s disease.
April is National Autism Awareness Month. Since the 1970s, the Autism Society has been using the observance as an opportunity to educate the public about autism and issues concerning the autism community.
The term ‘autism’ is familiar to many, but the specifics of the disorder are not widely understood in the general public. Autism encompasses a spectrum of developmental disabilities that range from mild to severe. Problems with social communication is a symptom most widely shared by those with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). The spectrum includes “classic” autistic disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder (PDD).
Autism symptoms fall into three main categories: social skills, language, and behavior. A person with autism may not respond to his or her name, may resist physical affection, and appear to be insensitive to others’ feelings. Language problems for those with ASDs manifest initially as developmental delays and later, with the inability to start or maintain a conversation. A person with autism may speak with an abnormal rhythm or tone. Behavior issues include intense sensitivity to light, sound, and touch; performance of repetitive movements like rocking or spinning; and development of rituals and strict routines.
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