April is National Autism Awareness Month and chances are, you know of someone diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Did you know ASD is the fastest growing development disability, rising 10-17% every year? About every 1 in 68 children are on the autism spectrum (about 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls).
Unfortunately, there is no single medical test to detect autism since symptoms are vastly different between individuals. There are, however, characteristics that are particularly common, including sensory processing challenges, speech/language delays and impairments, weak social cognition, and self-esteem issues.
Since 2007 a simple questionnaire that asks parents about their children’s motor skills, playtime behavior, and responses to social cues, called the Modified Checklist of Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT), has been used to screen children for autism between 18 and 24 months of age. According to researchers, the most promising tools that are being explored for diagnosing autism in the future include eye tracking, blood tests, brain imaging, and online tests.
Since autism is so complex and differs between every child, there are certain things that every parent should know about the disability:
- Autism is a genetic disorder, not the result of improper parenting.
- For a child with autism, behavior is a form of communication and occurs for a reason.
- Communication comes in many forms, so be alert for body language, withdrawal, agitation, or other signs that tell you something is wrong.
- Social interactions may be difficult for the child.
- Sensory overload is real. An ordinary environment to you may be overwhelming for someone with ASD.
To get a deeper understanding of real-life struggles of those with autism, as well as the challenges their loved ones face, check out this list of journalism pieces. Articles include the story of a father who discovered a surprising way to connect with his autistic son, the story of the first person diagnosed with autism, a look at dating and autism, and the riveting story of a massive state-wide search for a nonverbal eight-year-old autistic boy lost in an 80-acre state park.
The best thing you can do to help individuals or families impacted by ASD is to become educated, and Autism Awareness month offers many opportunities to learn more about ASD. And for help in improving the learning, reading, memory and attention skills of someone you love with autism, follow the link to find a LearningRx Center near you.