Thursday, March 17, 2005

Facts about autism

Facts about autism
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
The Grand Rapids Press

What is autism?

Not a disease, autism is a developmental disorder that includes a broad range of symptoms and conditions -- from a high functioning form called Asperger's Syndrome to more severe forms. Grouped with other developmental conditions called Autism Spectrum Disorders, the disability is a lifelong condition that usually appears in children before age 3. There is no cure.

Those with autism are bombarded with sensations from everything they touch, see, feel, hear and taste, all at the same time, to the point of overload. Many cannot deal with change and end up retreating into a world of their own.

Autism facts

Autism Spectrum Disorders occur in 1-2 or more of every 500 births; 3 to 4 times more often in boys.

The developmental disability is thought by some scientists to be genetic in origin.

It is the third most common developmental disability following mental retardation and cerebral palsy. It's the fastest-growing developmental disability.

75-80 per cent of people with autism have mental impairment

What are the signs?

Many children with autism may seem normal in their development until they're toddlers, when delays or regression in language, social interaction and play become more apparent. Possible signs include:

Slow or no language development, a short attention span, difficulty in answering questions or comprehending what they hear and read. They often interpret words literally, and have difficulty understanding humor, sarcasm, or figures of speech.

Unusual speech and language. Words, phrases or sentences may seem out of context.

Preference to being alone; difficultly joining others in make-believe play.

Repetitive or unusual mannerisms such as rocking, flapping a hand, banging his or her head and flicking fingers in front of the eyes. Possible physical awkwardness or seemingly lack of coordination.

Aversion to social touch.

Has difficulty making direct eye contact with others.

Has trouble understanding inferred meanings behind spoken words. Takes the meaning of words literally.

Violent reactions to objects, people and situations

Incredibly accurate memory of details such as dates, phone numbers, facts, quotes, etc., but trouble remembering where they left their shoes.

(Sources: The Gray Center for Social Learning and Understanding, and www.autismeducation.net.)

Behaviors to Watch

The criteria used to diagnose autism are designed for 3-year-olds. Recent research shows certain behaviors in younger children may indicate a higher risk for developing the disorder. No single factor indicates a child may have autism; the presence of several symptoms could be cause for concern.

Possible symptoms at 6 months

Not making eye contact with parents during interaction

Not cooing or babbling

Not smiling when parents smile

Not participating in vocal turn-taking (baby makes a sound, adult makes a sound, and so forth)

Not responding to peekaboo game

At 14 months

No attempts to speak

Not pointing, waving or grasping

No response when name is called

Indifferent to others

Repetitive body motions such as rocking or hand flapping

Fixation on a single object

Oversensitivity to textures, smells, sounds

Strong resistance to change in routine

Any loss of language

At 24 months

Does not initiate two-word phrases (that is, doesn't just echo words)

Any loss of words or developmental skill

(Source: Rebecca Landa, Center for Autism and Related Disorders at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore)

Behaviors by age group

No single factor indicates autism; the presence of several could be cause for concern.

At 6 months:

Not making eye contact with parents during interaction

Not cooing or babbling

Not smiling when parents smile

Not participating in vocal turn taking (baby makes a sound, adult makes a sound, and so forth)

Not responding to peekaboo game

At 14 months:

No attempts to speak

Not pointing, waving or grasping

No response when name is called

Indifferent to others

Repetitive body motions

Fixation on a single object

Oversensitivity to textures, smells, sounds

Strong resistance to change in routine

Any loss of language

At 24 months

Does not initiate two-word phrases

Any loss of words or developmental skill

(Sources: Signs -- The Gray Center for Social Learning and Understanding,

and www.autismeducation.net. Behaviors -- Rebecca Landa, Center

for Autism and Related Disorders at the Kennedy Krieger Institute,

Baltimore, Md.)

Treatment questions

When deciding on an autism strategy, Kristen Priem suggests parents become "careful consumers" and look at every strategy and evaluate it based on their child, their family, and the time and energy they have to devote to it. She advises asking these questions:

How practical is it? Will it require special equipment, trained therapists or special materials? Can I continue it long term?

How much does it cost, and could the benefits justify the expense?

Does it fit with my family's other needs, lifestyle and beliefs? Consider the location where therapy is provided, your other children's needs, and other areas of stress in your life.

Assess your expectations about what your want the strategy to do for your child, how long it may take for improvement in specific areas and what happens when there's no improvement in a reasonable amount of time.

Statistics

In Kent County, students with autism numbered 493 in 2003; 555 in 2004.

In Ottawa County, students with autism numbered 220 in 2003; 271 in 2004.

In Michigan, students with autism numbered 7,525 in 2003; 8,650 in 2004.

In the U.S., 1 child in 166 has autism.

1 million to to 1.5 million Americans have the disorder.

Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability with a 10 to 17 percent annual growth rate which could reach 4 million Americans in the next decade. It's increased 10 times in the last 20 years.

During the 1990s, the increase of those diagnosed with autism was 172 per cent.

(Sources: www.autism-society.org and www.autisticsociety.org; Michigan Department of Education)

Resources

The Gray Center for Social Learning and Understanding, 4123 Embassy Drive SE, Kentwood, MI 49546. Contact them at 954-9747 or visit their website at www.thegraycenter.org.

Autism Asperger Associates of Michigan, 7027 10 Mile Road NE, Rockford, MI 49341. Contact them at 874-2090 or visit their website at www.autism-asperger-associates.com.

Autism Society of Michigan, 6035 Executive Dr., Ste 109, Lansing, MI 48911; www.autism-mi.org.

Autistic Society: www.autisticsociety.org.

www.autismspeaks.org.

Autism Coalition: autismcoalition.org.

CDC: cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/actearly.

National Alliance for Autism Research: naar.org.

Autism Society of America, Inc.; www.autism-society.org.
Facts about autism

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