Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum disorder” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause for autism, but many research studies are underway. Increased awareness and acceptance of individuals and their families is needed, as well as continued funding for services and supports at an early age and into adulthood.
The CDC issued a report in May 2012 that marked the incidence of autism as 1 in 88 births (data from 2008), with the diagnosis given to boys four times more often than girls. The spotlight shown on autism as a result of the prevalence increase opens opportunities for the nation to consider how to serve these children, adults, and families facing a lifetime of support needs.
Know the Signs: Early Identification Can Change Lives
Autism is treatable. Children do not “outgrow” autism, but studies show that early diagnosis and intervention lead to significantly improved outcomes. Many adults with autism live independently, are college graduates, are employed and have families of their own.
The characteristic behaviors of autism spectrum disorders may or may not be apparent in infancy (18 to 24 months), but usually become obvious during early childhood (24 months to 6 years).
As part of a well-baby/well-child visit, your child’s doctor should do a “developmental screening,” asking specific questions about your baby’s progress. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) lists five behaviors that signal further evaluation is warranted:
- Does not babble or coo by 12 months
- Does not gesture (point, wave, grasp) by 12 months
- Does not say single words by 16 months
- Does not say two-word phrases on his or her own by 24 months
- Has any loss of any language or social skill at any age
Having any of these five red flags does not mean your child has autism. But because the symptoms of the disorder vary so much, a child showing these behaviors should have further evaluations by a multidisciplinary team. This team may include a neurologist, psychologist, developmental pediatrician, speech/language therapist, learning consultant, or other professionals knowledgeable about autism.
Asperger’s or Autism?
What distinguishes Asperger’s Disorder from Autism Disorder is the severity of the symptoms and the absence of language delays. Children with Asperger’s Disorder may be only mildly affected and frequently have good language and cognitive skills. To the untrained observer, a child with Asperger’s Disorder may just seem like a normal child behaving differently. For more info, click here.
In Memory of Reid Thompson. Click Reid’s photo to read about his life and the impact you can make with the Autism Tissue Program.