April is Autism Awareness Month
Autism and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are complex brain development disorders characterized by social interaction difficulties, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. ASD is not caused by a single factor, rather a combination of predisposing contributors including genetic mutations and environmental cause. These include: older parents, maternal illness while pregnant, and oxygen deprivation during birth.
Autism occurs in about 1 in every 68 children in America and is 4 times more prevalent in boys than girls, occurring 1 in 42 and 1 in 189, respectively. These statistics have increased drastically over the past 40 years partly because of improved diagnosis. Signs and symptoms usually become evident around 2-3 years of age; however, research is being conducted in efforts to improve outcomes in individuals with autism by diagnosing the condition earlier. In younger children (babies and toddlers, the following signs and symptoms may be concern for autism:
- Doesn't make eye contact (e.g., look at you when being fed).
- Doesn't smile when smiled at.
- Doesn't respond to his or her name or to the sound of a familiar voice.
- Doesn't follow objects visually.
- Doesn't point or wave goodbye or use other gestures to communicate.
- Doesn't follow the gesture when you point things out.
- Doesn't make noises to get your attention.
- Doesn't initiate or respond to cuddling.
- Doesn't imitate your movements and facial expressions.
- Doesn't reach out to be picked up.
- Doesn't play with other people or share interest and enjoyment.
- Doesn't ask for help or make other basic requests.
In older children, basic social interaction can be difficult for children with autism spectrum disorders. Many kids on the autism spectrum seem to prefer to live in their own world, aloof and detached from others. Older children with autism may show these signs of social difficulties:
- Appears disinterested or unaware of other people or what's going on around them.
- Doesn't know how to connect with others, play, or make friends.
- Prefers not to be touched, held, or cuddled.
- Doesn't play "pretend" games, engage in group games, imitate others, or use toys in creative ways.
- Has trouble understanding or talking about feelings.
- Doesn't seem to hear when others talk to him or her.
- Doesn't share interests or achievements with others (drawings, toys).
The more we know about Autism Spectrum Disorder, the earlier and more effectively we will be able to treat it. If you'd like to learn more about Autism, find support or help raise awareness, visit: https://www.autismspeaks.org/