April is Autism Awareness Month

What is Autism?
Autism is a disorder of neuro development. The disorder is characterized by a range of “skill deficits and behavioral excesses” as explained by Educational Psychologist Stephanie Rosales M.Ed. Rosales explains that autism is not the same for every child, behaviors vary from child to child but they all start showing signs of skill deficits and behavioral excesses as early as age 2.

What are skill deficits or behavioral excesses?
Children begin showing signs of communication or social deficits as early as age 2.

Examples include:

  • No babbling or pointing by age 1
  • No single words or two word phrases by age 2
  • No response to name
  • Loss of language or social skills such as smiling or responsiveness
  • No eye contact

Other deficits or excesses that may appear later include:

  • Excessive lining up of toys or objects
  • Repetitive or unusual use of language
  • Preoccupation with certain subjects or objects
  • Absence or impairment of imaginative or social play

How common is autism in boys and girls?
According to an online resource, autism prevalence for children is 1 in 68. For boys this number is 1 in 42 and for girls this number is 1 in 182. Autism is most common in boys.

What causes autism?
Scientists believe both genetics and environment play a role. It is believed that disruption of early brain development in the fetus may be a factor, however, it is not certain what are the exact causes of autism.

What can we do to help?
Early diagnosis can help boost a child’s opportunity to access early intervention resources that promote social, behavioral, and communication development. A child will forever have certain deficits, however this does not mean that the best can’t be done to ensure that autism stays at its lowest possible degree of intensity. Therapy and early detection is key.

Autism prevalence and detection for children has gone from a 1 in 166 in 2000 to a 1 in 68 in 2014. Rosales explains that, “We have gotten better at identifying and diagnosing autism through outreach and education for professionals, such as pediatricians, who interact with young, developing children and their parents. It used to be that experts believed the child would grow out of the ‘phase’ when presented with a child around 2 years of age who wasn’t walking or talking. Many children remained unaccounted for, that is, until those children reached 4 years of age and the delays remained.”

LEARN MORE: AUTISMSPEAKS.ORG

What are your thoughts on how genetics and environment play a role in autism prevalence?

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