April is National Autism Awareness Month
National Autism Awareness Month promotes autism awareness, autism acceptance and to draw attention to the tens of thousands facing an autism diagnosis each year.
What is Autism?
When people refer to “Autism” today, they are usually talking about Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), which is a brain-based disorder characterized by social-communication challenges and restricted repetitive behaviors, activities, and interests. The Centers for Disease Control describes ASDs as: “a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.
There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less.”
Autism is about 4.5 times more likely to affect boys than girls, and is found in all racial, ethnic, and social groups. There is no known single cause for autism, although the best available science points to important genetic components.
How common is autism?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates autism’s prevalence as 1 in 68 children in the United States. This includes 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls.
What causes autism?
We know that there’s no one cause of autism. Research suggests that autism often develops from a combination of genetic and non-genetic, or environmental, influences. These influences appear to increase the risk that a child will develop autism. However, it’s important to keep in mind that increased risk is not the same as cause. For example, some gene changes associated with autism can also be found in people who don’t have the disorder. Similarly, not everyone exposed to an environmental risk factor for autism will develop the disorder. In fact, most will not.
What are the symptoms of autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are characterized by social-interaction difficulties, communication challenges and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors. A person with ASD might:
- Not respond to their name
- Not point at objects or things of interest
- Not play “pretend” games
- Avoid eye contact
What should I do if I suspect my child may have autism?
Don’t wait. Talk to your doctor or contact your state’s Early Intervention Services department about getting your child screened for autism.
What if I suspect I have autism?
Many persons with Asperger syndrome or other high-functioning forms of autism never received a diagnosis as a child. They may be diagnosed as adults when seeking help for related problems at work or in their social lives. Consider asking your physician for a referral to an appropriate specialist. Professionals qualified to make an adult autism diagnosis include licensed clinical psychologists, neurologists and psychiatrists.
What does it mean to be “On the Spectrum”?
Each individual with autism is unique. Many of those with autism have exceptional abilities in visual, music and academic skills. About 40 percent have intellectual disability (IQ less than 70), and many have normal to above average intelligence. Because the effects of autism can vary greatly from one individual to another, individuals are considered to be “on the spectrum” depending on the degree to which they are affected by the disorder.
How do I get my child the help he or she needs?
It is important to make sure your child has a knowledgeable and reputable healthcare team. This means finding doctors, therapists, psychologists and teachers who understand and have experience with autism and can respond to his shifting needs appropriately.
Will my child be able to attend school?
Absolutely. In fact, it’s a child’s right: According to the Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1990, your child deserves access to a “free and appropriate” education funded by the government, whether it be in a mainstream or special education classroom.
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