You have probably heard of Autism and may be aware of some of the symptoms, but how much do we really understand the realities of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder)? In honor of National Autism Awareness Month, let’s take a look at some of the facts to help us better understand the children and the families living life on the spectrum.
1. Autism is Common
The CDC estimates the prevalence of Autism to have increased by 10% since the disorder rose to prominence in 2004. As of 2020, 1 in every 54 children are diagnosed with ASD. It is more common in boys; for every 1 girl, there are 4 boys diagnosed. Autism affects children from all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. Organizations like Autism Speaks help to bring awareness about Autism and offer support to the many families that face this diagnosis.
2. The Spectrum is Broad
People with Autism have very diverse clinical signs, symptoms, and needs. Some have more physical, obvious symptoms and for others, it’s quite subtle. Because of the wide range of symptoms and severity along the spectrum, Autism can be difficult to diagnose. Generally, Autism causes social problems that impact common day-to-day functions. Children with Autism lack the social “know-how” that other kids are born with. Early signs of autism can include resistance to slight change, abnormal body movements, lack of interest or pointing to objects, minimal/no eye contact, and extreme sensitivity to textures, light, smell, taste, or touch.
3. There Is No One Cause for Autism
There is still a lot to learn about Autism, and some causes and risk factors remain unknown. Research suggests that Autism develops from a combination of genetic and environmental factors, often running in families and increased by risk factors such as advanced parent age, pregnancy complications, or multiple pregnancies (such as twins or triplets). These risk factors don’t guarantee Autism but do increase the chance that it occurs. According to research, one thing that doesn’t correlate with Autism is vaccines. If you’re curious to learn more about vaccines, the American Academy of Pediatrics has compiled the research here: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/immunizations/Pages/Vaccine-Studies-Examine-the-Evidence.aspx
4. Early Detection is Key
As Autism awareness increases around the country, physicians are able to screen more children for symptoms at an early age. Autism’s hallmark signs usually appear by age 2 or 3, and sometimes as early as 18 months. Experts on ASD suggest that parents learn the signs of Autism and act early if their child begins displaying symptoms. Therapies starting at a young age can support the child and the family.
5. There are a Variety of Helpful Treatments
Autism has no cure, and treatments are not medicinal. A variety of therapies exist to support people with Autism, including applied behavior analysis, social skills training, occupational therapy, physical therapy, sensory integration therapy, and the use of assistive technology. These therapies have shown to greatly improve the quality of life for individuals living with ASD and their families. Many grow up to live and work independently.
Learning more about Autism can help us to notice signs early and to support the people in our lives who are impacted by ASD. Ask your doctor if you are interested in more information!