Devereux - National Awareness
What is Autism Awareness Month?Autism Awareness Month, celebrated every year in April, provides an opportunity for families, friends, and local communities to raise public awareness about autism. It is sponsored by the Autism Society of America (ASA). Individuals and communities can get involved by participating in activities sponsored by their local ASA chapter or by promoting services related to autism.
What is autism? Autism is a complex developmental disability that affects an individual's social interaction and communication. It is known as a spectrum disorder, because it affects each individual in different ways and to varying degrees. Studies suggest that if one child is autistic, there's a 2% to 8% chance that any sibling will be autistic, and a 30% to 40% chance that the sibling will have milder, but related, problems. If the sibling is an identical twin, the risk for Autism increases to between 60% and 90% (National Alliance for Autism Research; 2004). Overall, the incidence of autism is four times more prevalent in boys than in girls and typically appears during the first 3 years of life. Children and adults with autism tend to have difficulty with verbal and nonverbal communications, social interactions, and leisure or play activities.
What are the symptoms of autism? There is a common misconception that all individuals with Autism are mentally retarded. Approximately three quarters of individuals with Autism also have Mental Retardation, however individuals with Asperger's Disorder, a related form of PDD, typically have average or above average IQ.
Autism can present itself in a wide variety of combinations, from mild to severe:
- Slow development or lack of physical, social, and learning skills.
- Immature rhythms of speech, limited understanding of ideas, and use of words without attaching the usual meaning to them.
- Abnormal responses to sensory information. Sight, hearing, touch, pain, balance, smell, taste, the way a child holds his body—any one or a combination of these responses may be affected.
- Abnormal ways of relating to people, objects, and events.
What causes autism?
There is no single known cause for autism. However, it is generally agreed that it is caused by abnormalities in brain structure or function. Brain scans have shown differences in the shape and structure of the brain in children with autism when compared to those without the condition. Researchers are investigating a number of theories, including a link between heredity, genetics, and birth-related medical problems. Psychological factors are not believed to be the cause of autism.
How is autism treated?
Experts agree that early intervention is important in addressing the symptoms associated with autism. Most professionals also agree that individuals with autism respond well to highly structured, specialized education programs that are designed to meet the individual's particular needs. In any treatment plan, it is important for family members and treatment providers to address areas of social skill development, communication, behavior, and sensory integration.
Did you know?
*Information provided by National Mental Health Information Center.
- 1 in 150 children born have some sort of autism spectrum disorder.
- More than 1.5 million people in the U.S. today have autism or some form of pervasive developmental disorder.
- Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the U.S. today.
- The economic impact of autism is more than $90 billion and expected to more than double in the next decade.
- Autism receives less than 5% of the research funding when compared to less prevalent childhood diseases.
- Autism is four times more prevalent in boys than girls.
- There is no medical detection treatment, or cure for autism. Autism occurs in all racial, ethnic, and social groups.