By: Giulia Frasca, Esq.
April is Autism Awareness Month, a time to raise public consciousness about autism and autism spectrum disorders, complex disorders that affect brain development and a person’s ability to communicate, learn and form relationships. Tuesday, April 2, 2013 is World Autism Awareness Day, initiated by Autism Speaks, a day where organizations around the world will be recognizing autism and autism spectrum disorders in various ways such as shining a blue light upon a famous landmark, or distributing multi-color puzzle piece ribbons.
With new research and facts being reported, it is important for everyone, especially new parents, to be aware of the early warning signs of autism spectrum disorders. Autism spectrum disorder now affect one in every 50 children, well above the one in 88 previously reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the study, 1 million children nationally are diagnosed with autism. These findings, recently released by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration and the Centers for Disease Control are sparking debate. While experts attribute the increase to better reporting, it also suggests that the disorder is being diagnosed more frequently in children with milder symptoms. Some suggest that the new statistic underestimates the number of persons actually affected by the disorder and should be a wake up call to further fund research, specialized treatment and education for persons with autism spectrum disorders.
Appropriate screening can determine whether a child is at risk for autism as early as twelve months. While every child’s development is unique, it is proven that early treatment improves outcomes, often dramatically. For example, studies show that early intensive behavioral intervention improves learning, communication and social skills in young children with autism spectrum disorders.
One of the most important things for parents and caregivers to do is to be familiar with typical developmental milestones that an infant should be meeting and learn the early signs of autism spectrum disorders.
If your child exhibits any of the following warning signs, ask your pediatrician or family practitioner for an evaluation as soon as possible:
- No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter;
- No exchange of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions by nine months;
- No babbling by 12 months;
- No exchange of gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving by 12 months;
- No words by 16 months;
- No meaningful two-word phrases by 24 months;
- Any loss of speech, babbling, or social skills at any age.
The nonprofit organization, Autism Speaks, offers helpful information and tools for families affected by autism spectrum disorders. One tool available on the site is the M-CHAT (Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers), which can help determine if your child should be professionally evaluated. You can find it by following this link: http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/diagnosis/screen-your-child.
If you suspect that your child has an autism spectrum disorder, talk to your doctor as soon as possible so that an evaluation can be conducted and services and treatment can begin as soon as possible.
For more information, visit www.specialneedsnewyork.com.