By MICHELLE POPE
Texas State University
Tuesday, April 2, is the second annual World Autism Awareness Day. The United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution declaring World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD), making autism one of only three health issues to by recognized by the United Nations with its own day.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), autism is one of a group of disorders known as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) that cause impairments in the way children and communicate with others, as well as unusual behaviors and interests. In addition, many people with autism have unusual ways of learning, paying attention, and reacting to sensations. Individuals with autism vary greatly in their characteristics of learning, communicating and interacting socially.
In the recent years, there has been a great deal of media attention on the causes of autism. Some of the claims have ranged from vaccinations to diet. However, according to CDC, there is a good chance that genetics and environment play a role. Family studies demonstrate a high incidence among identical and fraternal twins indicating a strong genetic component.
In addition, ASDs are much more likely to occur in boys than in girls, and, according to the most recent reports by the CDC, it is estimated that one in 150 children now have ASD. The CDC recently reports that parental age may be associated with higher rates of autism with parents of greater age than 35 being at the greatest risk.
Whatever the cause, research has consistently demonstrated that early intervention can provide the best outcomes for children. The old adage “your child will grow out of it,” can be detrimental to a child with autism. Children who are identified at the earliest time can receive intervention before going to school are likely to make the greatest improvements in their development. Locally, services through Early Childhood Intervention, Homespun can provide a necessary link to services for children.
If you are concerned about your child’s development, learn the signs and obtain a developmental screening from your pediatrician. Delays in speech and language, a lack of eye contact, a child that is not responsive to verbal cues from environment, severe tantrums or unusual attachment to objects instead of people can be signs of autism in young children.
Online support is available to parents who need support. Parents who want to connect to other parents nationally can join the Interactive Autism Network with more than 25,000 users since its launch in 2007. This website hosts discussion forums, provides information on therapies and provides support for families seeking resources.
Dr. Michelle Pope is an Associate Professor and the Director of P-16 Initiatives at Texas State University. Dr. Pope is also the parent of a child with ASD.