April Is Autism Awareness Month. How to Know if You should Have Your Child Tested.
Full Disclosure: I wrote this post over a week ago , I needed to sit on it before posting however, because the more I researched autism, the realer it got for Me personally. I've always been different, I have a slew of emotional and mental illnesses that can be contributed back to various events in My life. However, I also have a ton of ticks and little things about Me that I always just considered "Me". Yet, as I researched autism, I could not ignore the fact that so much of what I was reading related to Me. Especially as I learned about things like high-functioning autistic traits. I was born in 1981, growing up, autism isn't a word that I remember hearing until I was an adult. We didn't talk about, nor test for these type things in My community. I had a hard time deciding how to post this article without disclosing that I saw Myself in it. Then I realized that lack of knowledge and/or action on the part of those who raised Me, is nothing for Me to be ashamed of.
April is World Autism Awareness Month. I had no idea what autism was until I was in My 30’s yet 1 in every 36 children in the US today are affected by it. I’m sure if, not as high a rate, autism as an illness was just as prevalent in the first 40 years of My life. When I was growing up, I can now look back and recognize that I have even had friends that were affected by autism, but back then they were described as “a little slow”, or “not all there”.
Today, I can say with assurance that just because someone is affected by autism, it doesn't make them a little slow. In fact, one of My closest friends is not only autistic, but also has 3 children on the spectrum, and not only is she smart as a whip, but her children also all have various talents.
So, what IS autism anyway?
According to Autism Speaks, the leading non-profit for autism awareness, education etc., “Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication.”
The fact that there are a broad range of conditions on a spectrum is so important. It means that every individual with autism may experience a wide range of conditions with some being extremely mild, others being more extreme. These conditions show up in various ways from how those affected deal with social communication, interpersonal relationships, and various patterns of behavior.
Autism is a spectrum of disorders; there are five major types of autism which include Asperger’s syndrome, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, Kanner’s syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified.
Those who are on the autism spectrum usually start to experience symptoms very early in childhood. A small number of children present symptoms within the first year, however, it’s more common to show clear signs and symptoms between 18 and 24 months.
What should you do if you suspect your child is on the autism spectrum?
Children tend to show signs of delayed development by age 2. Some signs you may notice may look like
· Not saying mama, dada or other distinguishable words by 16 months
· Not gesturing like pointing for bottles or toys by 14 months
· Delayed cognitive skills like scooting, crawling, attempting to walk
· Lack of eye contact
The first step if you suspect your child may be on the spectrum, is to contact your pediatrician and schedule an evaluation. It’s best to start with your pediatrician because it is they who are monitoring your child’s developmental growth.
No matter where you are in the United States, there are local centers and resources to help you with getting your child evaluated. The CDC has provided that information at https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/concerned.html/#childthree
Is there a cure for autism spectrum disorder?
While there is no cure for autism, there are various treatment methods that can help those on the spectrum such as
Applied behavioral analysis which involves a study of the child’s functional challenges and a customized, structured behavioral plan
Speech and language therapy to improve the child’s speech and understanding of language
Occupational therapy which can help with deficits in the skills needed for everyday living
Medication that a doctor prescribes based on that child’s individual concerns
as well as a variety of other methods.
For more information on autism spectrum disorder visit