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.

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. Not speaking by 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 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.

(5): When Should Treatment Start?
Teasley recommends that Intervention and treatment should start at age 3: “Later intervention will result in poorer developmental outcome that can have a lasting impact on the child’s and family’s quality of life.”

(6) Do Symptoms Get Better or Worse Over Time
The National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke (NINDS) advise that many symptoms improve with treatment and age.  Overall “people with an ASD usually continue to need services and supports as they get older” some adolescents may require treatment modifications as they transition into adulthood.

For more information on National Autism Awareness Month and how individuals can make a difference visit Autism Society and access a Puzzle Ribbon as well.

Article first published as Autism Facts Every Parent Should Know on Technorati.