Autism Facts Every Parent Should Know
Everyone is encouraged to wear a ribbon this month to show support and help raise awareness of the struggles and issues surrounding autistic children and their families.
Since April is recognized officially in the United States as National Autism Awareness Month it ushers in a special opportunity to educate the public on some of the most puzzling questions that seem to plague areas related to the disease.
(1): What is Autism?
Autism represents a spectrum of complex neurological and developmental disorders that ranges from mild to severe. Its formal name is: autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and is characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, restrictive and repetitive behavior. Autism is the most severe form of the disease. A milder case is called Asperger syndrome.
(2): Early Signs of Autism
The earlier the diagnosis and treatment the better the prognosis. Some early signs include:
a. Unresponsiveness: the infant does not smile or interact with others
b. Fixation: focusing intently on one item
c. No response to name
d. At age 1: No babbling or any meaningful gestures
e. At 16 months: loss of language and other social skills
f. Poor eye contact
g. Repetitive movements
(3): How is it Diagnosed?
Only brain scans can truly provide accurate diagnosis. Another school of thought requires a multidisciplinary approach that embraces neurological testing, language testing, and in depth cognitive assessments.
(4) Who is More Vulnerable to the Disease?
Autism and its milder form is linked to genetic factors and researchers are still trying to identify which of the genes contribute to a higher degree of susceptibility in young children.
Children of all racial groups develop autism at the same rate, however, black children are less likely to be diagnosed earlier than whites. According to Martell Teasley, a researcher and associate professor in the College of Social Work at Florida State University, Tallahassee, gave the reason for delayed diagnosis in black children as: the “lack of access to quality, affordable, and culturally knowledgeable healthcare” and which includes cases of misdiagnosis.Continued on the next page