For many, the first day of April signifies a day of jokes and laughter but for the Hunter family, it's the beginning of a month to bring understanding to the masses. 

Autism Speaks Canada describes autism as a lifelong neurodevelopmental difference in which people perceive the world, think, and interact with others in unique ways.

The article also mentions that autism touches more than 70 million people globally. Approximately 1 in 66 children and youth are diagnosed with Autism in Canada and this number continues to grow. 

With that being said, April is also Autism Awareness Month. That is why we decided to catch up with Austin Hunter, who was diagnosed with autism when he was a young child. He mentioned that he just wished everyone would treat him the same because "being Austin is a superpower."

Austin's mother Tara-Marie Hall says that sometimes having a child with autism can be a struggle but she wouldn't change it for the world. 

"Austin is such a smart, caring and funny guy. He never judges people and wants to be friends with everyone. He has taught me so much and has made me a better person. He has done the same to all those people who have been open to becoming a part of his world. All Austin wants is to be treated with kindness and respect. He wants to be given the chance to make friends and to be treated like everyone else."

She mentions there are some day-to-day struggles that most may not realize. 

"The first one is getting him out of the house," she continues. "He struggles with school, especially the social aspect, so it's not uncommon that I get called to the school if what they have tried doesn't work."

She goes on to say that Austin has trouble understanding feelings and emotions. He really struggles with trying to verbalize what is bothering him and this leads to frustration. As a result, he has meltdowns, which can last a few minutes to an entire week.

She shares that another triggering thing for Austin is loud noises. 

"He will often wear noise canceling headphones. When he needs to get out his energy, he stims. His stims include clapping his hands, tapping, and kind of making this loud noise, and people stare sometimes that bothers him because he doesn't understand. To us, that's normal, but to society it's different."

Tara says that one thing people don’t realize about autism is that it can be very isolating. She mentions that they don't get invited to birthday parties or mom groups very often because according to Tara, "No one wants to invite the child who appears different or the mom who is always busy dealing with the day-to-day struggles of having an autistic child.'' 

She adds that there are few programs or resources out to help families dealing with autism and apparently in Portage, there are quite a few.  

"We've connected with other families through the Special Olympics or Swimmingly. I know, personally, it's tough to see when Austin is treated differently when his feelings are hurt. He doesn't understand why people are treating him that way."

In closing, the Hunter family really wants to emphasize educating today's youth about autism and how it affects more people than you think. 

"Go to the library, read up on it. I'm here if you want to ask any questions, I'd love to answer any of them. People who have autism, they just wanna be accepted and it's so hard to believe when they're not."

To learn more about autism click here.