April is Autism Awareness Month, and on April 2, the fifth annual World Autism Day was celebrated. One of the main goals for Autism Awareness in 2012 is a global effort to raise awareness and world attention on the issues affecting those with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Autism is the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the U.S.; among all the 3-12 year old children in the country, 1 percent has an autism spectrum disorder. In all, autism now affects approximately 1 in 88 children. More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes, and cancer combined.
What is an Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are described in many different ways: by having trouble with group communication, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.
Some common disorders are called:
- Autistic disorder
- Rett syndrome
- Childhood disintegrative disorder
- Pervasive developmental disorder
- Asperger syndrome
Autism appears to have its roots in very early brain development; the most obvious signs of autism and symptoms of autism tend to come out between 2 and 3 years of age, although research now suggests that children as young as 1 year old can show signs of autism. The most important thing you can do as a parent or caregiver is to learn the early signs of autism and understand the typical developmental milestones your child should be reaching at different ages.
Learn the signs of Autism:
- No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or after that.
- No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions by nine months or after that.
- No babbling (baby talk) by 12 months
- No Gesturing (pointing, waving bye-bye) by 12 months
- No words by 16 months
- No two-word important sayings (without copying or repeating) by 24 months
- Any loss of speech or babbling or social skills at any age
It can range from very mild to very severe and occur in all ethnic, socioeconomic and age groups. Males are four times more likely to have autism than females. If you have any concerns about your child's development, don't wait. Speak to your doctor about screening your child for autism.
Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Bob and Suzanne Wright, grandparents of a child with autism. Their longtime friend donated $25 million to help financially launch the organization. Since then, Autism Speaks has grown into the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.
"Autism Votes" is an initiative developed by the Autism Speaks organization. Autism Votes celebrated the signing of legislation on April 18, 2012 that makes Michigan the 30th state to pass autism insurance reform and the first to act since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued alarming new data on the frequency of autism in America. The new law requires coverage up to the age of 18 for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and speech and occupational therapy for children diagnosed with autism. For information about either organization, please visit http://www.autismspeaks.org/