April is Autism Awareness Month in the United States.Â Why should you be aware of autism?Â Because if you do not have autism in your family, you surely know somebody who does. And they need your support.
What are Your Chances of Having a Child with Autism
Have you ever thought autism was something that happened to somebody else?Â Think again.Â Here are the rates reported around the world:
- United States, 1 in 88 childrenÂ (1 in 54 males; 1 in 252 females)
- Europe, 1 in 100 children
- Asia, 1 in 100 children
- South Korea, 1 in 45 children
What is Autism
Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder are general terms for complex disorders of brain development. There are several types of autistic disorders that we are aware of:
- Autistic DisorderÂ (classic autism)
- Aspergerâ€™s Syndrome (like autism, but with normal language development)
- Pervasive Developmental DisorderÂ (a catch-all term for autistic behaviors that donâ€™t fit any of the other patterns)
- Childhood Disintegrative DisorderÂ (a rare condition where the child learns skills, but loses them by age 10)
- Rett Syndrome (a genetic illness that occurs only in females)
The disability ranges from mild to severe. The impairment in brain functioning is demonstrated in three areas:
- Social interaction
- Verbal and non-verbal communication
- Repetitive behaviors
According to Autism Speaks, the leading advocacy organization, most persons with autism are verbal (75%) and many people with autism are average or above average in intelligence (40%). About one in ten autistic persons have extraordinary brilliance in areas such as music, math, or the arts.
In most cases (60%), autism is associated with retardation (having an IQ of less than 70) . Most autistic adults have significant disability and require the supervision of others.
Autistic children require a great deal more supervision than most children without autism.Â Parents and siblings of autistic children are usually under a great deal of emotional strain as the supervision of the autistic child requires extraordinary patience and every spare moment of time.
Autism is a Puzzle
The major epidemiology research Â (studying the rates of disease) in the United States is done by the Center for Disease Control. In conjunction with John Hopkins University, they have established the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (ADDM), which monitors the rates of autistic disorders in eight-year-old children each year in the United States.Â Â Here is some data from the report released by the ADDM in March, 2012:
- The rate of autistic disorders in the United States is on the rise.Â It has increased by 78% in the past 10 years.
- Though the same criteria were used for identifying autism in each region, the rates vary greatly. Utah has the highest rate, with 1 in 47 children born in 2000 were diagnosed with a form of autism. Alabama has the lowest rates, with 1 in 244 children born in 2000 diagnosed with autism. You can find a report about the rate of autism in your state here.
- Boys are five times more likely to have autistic disorders than girls
Autism is visually represented as a set of red, green, blue, and yellow puzzle pieces.Â The multiple colors represent the diversity of forms of autism. The puzzle pieces reflect the urgent need for answers to the unanswered questions that would enable us to get a grasp on improving the quality of life for persons with autism and their familiesâ€”and perhaps someday find cures.
Early Intervention Leads to a Better Outcome
The earlier parents and doctors identify that a child has Autistic Spectrum Disorder, the more likely that specialized help can make a difference for the child. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believe that children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder have the best change if they are diagnosed by age 3.
How to Identify Autism Before Age 4
Here are some indicators that a young child might have an autistic disorder:
- no babbling or pointing by age 1
- no single words by 16 months or two-word phrases by age 2
- no response to name
- loss of language or social skills
- poor eye contact
- excessive lining up of toys or objects
- no smiling or social responsiveness.
Parents can ensure that their child is diagnosed in a timely manner by observing whether or not their child is meeting developmental milestones.Â A developmental milestone is a specific behavior that is expected to emerge by a certain age.Â You can act early in detecting autistic spectrum disorder and other developmental problems by reviewingÂ developmental milestones of each age.Â There is well-defined information on the siteÂ to help parents identify which concerns should be discussed with doctors.
There is usually funding through the school district and other sources available to help children with autistic disorders.Â You can find sources of help in your state by clicking this link.
How You Can Help
Now you know a little more about how to identify autism and what to do about itâ€”maybe you can help someone who needs to know today.Â With so many victims of autismâ€”there is likely to be someone in your family or neighborhood who could benefit from what you know. Mostly, they could benefit from knowing you care. Please reach out to them.