Look for autism signs early
April is National Autism Awareness Month, and that awareness is not easy.
Autism is a very complex disability that comes in a variety of forms. In other words, it isn’t always easy to describe what autism is, and there doesn’t seem to be any single cause for it.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that the prevalence of autism has risen to one birth out of every 110. In boys, that number goes to one out of every 70.
Over 1.5 million people live with this disorder. According to the Autism Society (AS), it is the fastest-growing developmental disability – with 1,148 percent growth rate. The lifetime cost of caring for a child with autism ranges from $3.5 million to $5 million. The United States is facing almost $90 billion annually in costs for autism (this figure includes research, insurance costs and non-covered expenses, Medicaid waivers for autism, educational spending, housing, transportation, employment, in addition to related therapeutic services and caregiver costs). In 10 years, the annual cost will be $200-400 billion, according to AS.
Autism is treatable, though not curable. With treatment, children diagnosed as autistic can see significantly improved lives. With early diagnosis and treatment, the cost of lifelong care for autistic persons can drop by as much as two-thirds. Here are a few early identification signs that the AS says parents can look for:
• Lack of or delay in spoken language.
• Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects).
• Little or no eye contact.
• Lack of interest in peer relationships.
• Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play.
• Persistent fixation on parts of objects.
The characteristic behaviors of autism spectrum disorders may or may not be apparent in infancy (18 to 24 months), but usually become obvious during early childhood (24 months to six years).
Ask your child’s doctor to do a “developmental screening,” and ask specific questions about your baby’s progress. While we don’t know what specifically causes autism, it does tend to run in families. Other causes are thought to be environmental in nature, such as exposure to chemicals at a young age.
To find out more about autism, visit the Autism Society at http://www.autism-society.org.
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