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April is Autism Awareness Month

By Paula Walter
April has been designated Autism Awareness Month.  This endeavor strives to enlighten people around the world as to the issues that those with an Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD) live with each day.  It has been estimated that one in 88 children born in the United States will suffer some form of autism.  For baby boys, that number has hit a staggering one in 54 births, and they are five times more likely than girls to receive this neurological disorder diagnosis.
ASD refers to a group of developmental disabilities that impact social, communication and behaviors skills.  Children with an autistic disorder typically have language delays, difficulties with socialization and communication and may exhibit unusual interests.  Those with Asperberger Syndrome present with milder symptoms of an autistic disorder but usually do not have problems with speech or intellectual delays.  People with Pervasive Development Disorder meet some of the criteria for autism, but not all.  They usually have fewer and milder symptoms.  Children do not outgrow autism in any of its forms.  It is something they and their families deal with every day of their lives.
 Parents and family members may notice a child with ASD does not respond or smile by the time they are six months old.  They do not babble, coo or recognize their name by 12 months.  They may not point at people or objects, do not play pretend, avoid eye contact, do not seek the company of others as they often want to be alone.   Children may experience speech and language delays, repeat words over and over, become upset by changes in their routine, or rock or spin their body in circle. Approximately 40 percent of children with autism do not speak. They may not respond to a familiar voice and do not seem to be interested in playing with others.
ASD symptoms typically appear by the time a child is three years old.    While some children develop symptoms between 18-24 months of age, issues often become more apparent as they age, usually up to six years old.  People with ASD often suffer from other medical conditions, such as allergies, epilepsy, digestive and sleeping disorders.  Race, religion and social status do not play a part in who has ASD.  At this time, the cause of autism is not known.  There is no one cause that has been found to be the catalyst for ASD.  There is speculation that genetics and environmental factors may play a significant role.
For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.