Today marks the beginning of National Autism Awareness Month. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are a complex set of neurological disorders that impair social communication and cognitive function, at varying levels of severity.
With autism affecting approximately 67 million people world wide and early diagnosis being more common than childhood cancer, diabetes and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) combined; research into its cause and possible cures has become of paramount importance.
Here are ten facts and statistics to help you familiarize yourself with autism, courtesy of Autism Speaks, the Autism Society and the National Autism Association:
1. According to a 2012 study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, approximately one in 88 children (one in 54 boys and one in 252 girls) are diagnosed with an ASD annually in the United States.
2. Research hasn't yet determined the exact cause of autism. Many scholars believe autism is a combination of genetic vulnerability triggered by some kind of social or toxic influence.
3. It's possible to detect autism in infants and children as young as six months. If a child remains fixated on an object or doesn't respond to people, he or she may be demonstrating early signs of autism. For children older than six months, signs include not responding to their name, avoiding eye contact, engaging in repetitive movements and a lack of movement in their joints. In general, it's also believed a larger head size can be an autism indicator.
4. There's a screening for parents who are concerned their child may be autistic, which most pediatricians can offer. Many scientists would agree earlier intervention improves the child's prognosis.
5. Many autistic children have a reduced sensitivity to pain but may be extra sensitive to sound, touch or other sensory stimulation. This may explain an aversion to being cuddled or hugged.
6. Children with an ASD are guaranteed free, appropriate public education under United States federal law.
7. Researchers are unclear why boys are diagnosed with autism more than girls, but some think the problem lies with the X chromosome, of which boys only have one.
8. Divorce rates are high in families with an autistic child. Researchers suggest reducing stress by ensuring an autistic child receives appropriate health care, setting aside time for a spouse and creating a support system with other families of children with autism.
9. The presence of a trained dog has been shown to improve autistic children’s quality of life, independence and safety. The dog acts as a calming presence and a companion which can reduce aggressive behavior and serve as a gateway which helps the child interact more with their community.
10. There is no known cure for autism. There are a variety of available treatments but no single treatment has been heralded as a concrete way to end autism. Many treatments center around therapy that reinforces skills and behaviors such as making eye contact and carrying on a conversation. In a 2001 study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences, it was advised children displaying signs of autism should receive about 25 hours of therapy per week.
Stay informed all April long as eVitamins for more information about autism. A portion of all sales this month will benefit the Autism Society.