What is Autism?
April is National Autism Awareness Month, calling attention to Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) that affect 3.5 million Americans. Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during childhood and is lifelong. It affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others, and can cause serious social, emotional, and behavioral challenges.
Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability but its causes are not clearly understood. Research suggests that autism often develops from a combination of genetic or environmental influences. For unknown reasons, ASD is four times more common in boys than girls. Children with autism tend to have other problems with brain function, such as seizures or epilepsy.
“When an affectionate, bubbly toddler suddenly becomes silent, withdrawn, violent, or self-abusive, something may be wrong.”
Parents are typically the first to notice unusual behaviors or developmental delays in their child. In some cases, the child may seem “different” from birth, although the first signs of autism often appear in young children who had previously been developing normally. When an affectionate, bubbly toddler suddenly becomes silent, withdrawn, violent, or self-abusive, something may be wrong.
There is no specific medical test, such as a blood test, to diagnose ASD. Doctors look at the child’s behavior and development. Although ASD can be identified in children as young as 18 months, many children do not receive a final diagnosis until they are much older. Diagnosing ASD takes two steps:
- A developmental screening: this test helps the doctor tell if the child is learning basic skills at the expected time or if there are delays in development.
- A comprehensive diagnostic evaluation: this evaluation includes a thorough review of the child’s behavior and development, and feedback from parents. It may also include hearing and vision screening, genetic testing, neurological testing, and other medical tests.
Sometimes a primary care doctor may refer the child and family to a specialist for further assessment. Specialists include developmental pediatricians, child psychiatrists, and child neurologists.
Treatment for Autism
While there is no cure for ASD, it is treatable. Research shows that early intervention treatment services can greatly improve a child’s development and help him/her learn important skills. Different types of treatment may include:
- • behavior and communication approaches
- • medication
- • dietary changes
- • complementary and alternative medicine
Living with Autism
Family members are affected by autism in different ways, with many reporting stress and financial strain due to the expense of autism treatment and therapies which may not be covered by insurance.
While there is no cure for autism, there are a variety of treatment and education approaches that can address the behavioral challenges related to ASD. Different types of treatment include:
- • Behavior and Communication Approaches
- • Dietary Approaches
- • Medication
- • Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Harsha Autism Centers provide ongoing care for children, adolescents, and young adults (ages 2-22) with autism to improve the quality of their lives. If you would like learn more about how Harsha Autism Centers can help please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (812) 233-8833.