What is autism?
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) can vary in severity of symptoms, age of onset, and the presence of various features such as language and intellectual ability. The manifestations of ASD can differ considerably across individuals. Even though there are strong and consistent commonalities, especially in social deficits, there is no single behavior that is always present in every individual with ASD and no behavior that would automatically exclude an individual from diagnosis of ASD. Autism is defined by the following:
- Autism is a bio-neurological developmental disability that generally appears before the age of 3
- Autism impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction, communication skills, and cognitive function. Individuals with autism typically have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities
- Individuals with autism often suffer from numerous co-morbid medical conditions which may include: allergies, asthma, epilepsy, digestive disorders, persistent viral infections, feeding disorders, sensory integration dysfunction, sleeping disorders, and more
autism facts and stats
- Autism now affects 1 in 68 children
- Boys are four times more likely to have autism than girls
- About 40% of children with autism do not speak. About 25%–30% of children with autism have some words at 12 to 18 months of age and then lose them. Others might speak, but not until later in childhood
- Autism greatly varies from person to person (no two people with autism are alike)
- Comorbid conditions often associated with autism include Fragile X, allergies, asthma, epilepsy, bowel disease, gastrointestinal/digestive disorders, persistent viral infections, PANDAS, feeding disorders, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, ADHD, Tourette Syndrome, OCD, sensory integration dysfunction, sleeping disorders, immune disorders, autoimmune disorders, and neuroinflammation.
- Children with autism do progress – early intervention is key
- Currently there is no cure for autism, though with early intervention and treatment, the diverse symptoms related to autism can be greatly improved and in some cases completely overcome.
what signs should I look for if i suspect that my child has autism?
Individuals with ASD interact with others differently. They often appear to have
- difficulty understanding and expressing emotion, and may express attachment in a different manner.
- lack of language development and rely upon other methods of communicating such as pointing to pictures or using a tablet computer with special language applications.
- echolalia, (the repeating of words or phrases over and over).
- difficulty understanding the nonverbal aspect of language such as social cues, body language and vocal qualities (pitch, tone and volume).
- great need for "sameness" which can make them upset if objects in their environment or time schedules change.
- difficulty "playing" with toys in the same manner as their peers and may become fixated on specific objects.
- different reaction to sensory stimuli seeing, hearing, feeling or tasting things with more or less intensity than others.
- different rate of development especially in the areas of communication, social and cognitive skills. In contrast, motor development may occur at a typical rate.
my child displays some or all of these characteristics. what should I do?
- Get a diagnosis. If you're concerned, see a doctor who's familiar with ASD. Don't assume the child will catch up. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers an online pediatrician referral service, searchable by specialty and location.
- Get help. Education, intervention and speech therapy are often critical.
- Know your rights. Children with autism can be eligible for early intervention and special education services that are free starting at age 3. Your health insurance may also include coverage for the medical services your child needs.