April is National Autism Awareness Month

The Autism Society is celebrating a growing awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the associated disorders of neural development with its National Autism Awareness Month, a celebration that has been happening annually since the 1970’s. The increase in awareness over the years has led to improvements in recognizing early symptoms and diagnosing ASD appropriately.

Autism Awareness

Autism is a developmental disorder that has wide levels of variation. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a general term for a variety of complex disorders of the brain. Which you can see difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behavior. Up until recently, there were variations or subtypes of ASD, considered to be distinct disorders. However, in the May 2013 version of the DSM, the ASD diagnosis now groups all of these variations into one disorder.

Improved Support

Fortunately, the levels of awareness have provided improved support for autistic adolescents. Although 15 years ago was the beginning of an epidemic, schools are beginning to include autistic teens into the mainstream education system versus placing them in special education. Prior to the recent increased recognition of autistic children, it was believed that autism affected one in 2500 births. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it was believed that in 2012 approximately 1 in 88 children were recognized as having ASD, which is 10 times more than 40 years ago. However, the CDC estimates that 1 in 68 children have been identified with ASD, which is approximately 14.7 per 1,000 eight year olds. This is a 30% increase over 2012.

The increase in the rates of ASD among children is due primarily to an increase in awareness and the growing ability to identify early signs. Yet, despite this, there remains a growing need for educating the public and communicating that a concern about Autism still exists. Additionally, early diagnosis of ASD facilitates reducing the symptoms that a child experiences and helps to improve his or her quality of life. The main symptoms that are characteristic of ASD include:

Communication problems

difficulty with language, such as focusing attention only on topics, repeating phrases, or having limited speech.

Challenge with relating to people, objects, and events

difficulty making friends and interacting with others, challenges with reading facial expressions and making eye contact.

Repetitive body movements and behaviors

there might be hand flapping or the repetition of words or sounds.

Although general symptoms are the same, the specific challenges for each child or adolescent diagnosed with Autism can vary. For this reason, there are a variety of therapies that can address different challenges. It is common that one single therapy will not work for every child, and what works for one teen may not work for another. Parents and caregivers might need to use a combination of therapies in order to address all of his or her needs with teen Autism and Asperger’s treatment. Some therapies for ASD include Applied Behavioral Analysis, Pivotal Response Treatment, Verbal Behavior, FloorTime, and Developmental Individual Difference Relationship Model (DIR).

Conclusion

Children and teens who participate in at least 25 hours of structured, therapeutic activities per week; work with highly trained behavioral therapists; aim towards specific learning objectives; interact with peers with and without autism; cultivate social, communication, and daily living skills; and who have a team of professionals working together on their behalf are likely to experience an improvement in symptoms of Autism and their quality of life.

 

References:

Frea, W. Parenting Adolescents with Autism. Autism Spectrum Disorders Health Center. WebMD. Retrieved on March 14, 2014 from http://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/features/parenting-adolescents-with-autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder. American Psychiatric Association. Retrieved on April 3, 2014 from: http://www.psychiatry.org/mental-health/autism-spectrum-disorders

National Autism Awareness Month. The Autism Society. Retrieved on April 3, 2014 from: http://www.autism-society.org/get-involved/national-autism-awareness-month/

 

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