What is Autism?
Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that typically lasts throughout a person's lifetime. It is part of a group of disorders known as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Today, 1 in 150 individuals is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. It occurs in all racial, ethnic, and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls. Autism impairs a person's ability to communicate and relate to others. It is also associated with rigid routines and repetitive behaviors, such as obsessively arranging objects or following very specific routines. Symptoms can range from very mild to quite sever.
Identify the Signs
A child or adult with an Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) might:
• not playing "pretend" games
• not pointing at objects to show interest
• not looking at objects when another person points at them
• having trouble relating to others or no interest in other people at all
• avoiding eye contact and want to be alone
• having trouble understanding other people's feelings or talking about their own
• preferring not to be held or cuddled or might cuddle only when they want to
• appearing to be unaware when people talk to them but respond to other sounds
• be very interested in people, but not know how to talk, play, or relate to them
• repeating or echo words or phrases said to them repeat words
• repeating phrases in place of normal language (echolalia)
• having trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions
• repeating actions over and over again
• having trouble adapting when a routine changes
• having unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound
• losing skills they once had (for instance, stop saying words they were once using)
* Note: Contact your child’s doctor or nurse if your child experiences a dramatic loss of skills at any age.
What if you suspect autism?
If you or your doctor think there could be a problem, ask for a referral to see a developmental pediatrician or other specialist, and you can contact your local early intervention agency (for children under 3) or public school (for children 3 and older).
To find out who to speak to in your area, you can contact the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities by logging on to http://www.nichcy.org/http://www.nichcy.org/ or calling 1-800-695-0285.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has links to information for families on their Autism Information Center Web page www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/dd/aic/resources.
Right now, the main research-based treatment for ASDs is intensive structured teaching of skills, often called behavioral intervention. Some of the most common interventions are Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Floor time Therapy, Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Sensory Integration Therapy, Relationship Development Intervention, Verbal Behavior Intervention, and the school-based TEAACH method. It is very important to begin this intervention as early as possible in order to help your child reach his or her full potential. Acting early can make a real difference!