April is Autism Awareness Month
03-29-2012 (Dayton, OH) -
A new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the end of March, 2012 shows that one in every 88 children in the United States has autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD). While the cause for the increase number is unknown autism is said to be the fastest growing developmental disability in the U.S.
Autism is a development disability characterized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. While autism can affect children as early as 12 months, autistic symptoms most commonly emerge between the ages of 2 and 3. Most kids with autism have been identified by age eight.
April is Autism Awareness Month and the experts at Dayton Children’s want both parents and caretakers to be aware of the signs of autism and what to do if they suspect their child may have this developmental disability.
What causes autism?
Developments in research have suggested that there are multiple reasons why autistic symptoms arise. However, researchers believe that most causes of autism are linked to a combination of autism risk genes and environmental factors influencing early brain development. According to Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, the clearest evidence of these autism risk factors involves events before and during birth. They include advanced parental age at time of conception, maternal illness during pregnancy and certain difficulties during birth.
A child with ASD might:
- Be unresponsive to their name by 12 months
- Not point at objects to show interest such as pointing at an airplane flying over by 14 months
- Avoid eye contact and always wants to be alone
- Have the tendency to repeat words and phrases over and over again. This is known as echolalia.
- Have obsessive interests
- Get upset over minor changes
- Have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
- Continuously flap their hands, rock their body or spin in circles
- Have delayed speech and hearing language skills
- Give unrelated answers to questions
- Have unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look or feel
If you think your child may be showing signs of autistic behavior, Eileen Kasten, MD, medical director of child development at Dayton Children’s, offers some advice to parents.
“Schedule an appointment with your child’s pediatrician if you are concerned that he/she may be autistic”, says Dr. Kasten. “Enrollment in specialized preschools through the local school system as early as possible is critical. You should also endeavor to establish a predictable routine at home, as well as investigate all possible treatment options including speech therapy and behavior therapy, enrolling your child as soon as possible.”
Although there is no medical cure for autism, it’s important for parents to learn the early signs of autism and understand the developmental milestones your child should be achieving in each stage of life. However, there are various behavioral therapies and interventions designed to help sustain developmental issues, including:
- Speech therapy. Can help your child improve their language and social skills to communicate more effectively
- Occupational therapy. May also help a child with autism to learn to process information from the senses (sight, sound, hearing, touch, and smell) in more manageable ways
- Physical therapy. Can helpimprove any deficiencies in coordination and motor skills
While parents and primary caregivers are left with the long-term difficulties of children with autism, it’s important to remember that they don’t do it alone. Teachers are also faced with challenges dealing with autistic children in the classroom. For teachers, it’s important to remember that autistic children need:
- Structure and consistency. Children with autism thrive in structured environments. Establish a routine and keep it as consistent as possible.
- Individualized instruction. It is important to structure a suitable learning environment for autistic children in providing individualized attention and instruction to satisfy their special learning needs. Also, students with ASD benefit from a low teacher-student ratio.
- Visual cues and supports. Children with autism learn faster and with greater ease when visuals are used. Remember to keep explanations as short and simple as possible and give written instructions instead of verbal instructions whenever you can.
- Sufficient interaction with other students. Classmates in the regular education environment can enhance a student with ASD self-esteem, and their compassion and understanding of those who differ from the norm, by serving as peer models for behavior, communication, and socialization.
If you think your child might have ASD or you think there could be a problem with the way your child plays, learns, speaks, or acts, contact your child’s doctor. If you or the doctor is still concerned, ask the doctor for a referral to a specialist who can do an in-depth evaluation of your child.
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