Autism – From Awareness to Acceptance
You probably know or interact with someone who has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 68 children in the U.S. have a ASD. It’s important to take time to learn about ASD and the impact it has.
In 1970, the Autism Society declared April as National Autism Awareness Month in efforts to increase education. Today, the month is aimed at increasing awareness, improved understanding and acceptance. ASD is called a “spectrum” disorder because it describes a wide variety of autism at different levels of intensity. The learning, thinking and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some individuals with ASD need a lot of assistance in their daily lives, others need less.
The cause of ASD is not fully understood, however risk may be higher for some children due to family genetics, being born to older parents and being born prematurely. Although many studies have been done to determine whether there is a link between vaccines and ASD, to date, studies continue to show that vaccines are not associated with ASD.
Signs of autism typically appear before the age of three and last throughout life. Children may reach milestones such as sitting, crawling and walking, even though differences can be seen in their communication and social behavior. It’s important to remember some people without autism might experience some of the symptoms of ASD. Here are some things to look for.
- Not responding to their name by 12 months
- Not pointing at objects to show interest by 14 months
- Not responding to a parent’s smile or facial expressions
- Not being soothed by human contact
- Having difficulty with change
- Sensitivity to sounds, light, texture and smells
- Avoiding eye contact
- Delayed speech and language skills
- Repeating words or motions over and over
- Not showing interest in interactive games like peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake
Speak with your child’s personal doctor if you have concerns about development or behavior. Early diagnosis and treatment such as speech, sensory integration and occupational therapy can greatly improve a child’s ability to talk, walk and interact with others. Although children don’t usually outgrow ASD symptoms, treatment can help them develop their own strengths and thrive.