What Is Autism?
Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life. The result of a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain, autism and its associated behaviors have been estimated to occur in as many as 1 in every 50 individuals (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2013). Autism is five times more prevalent in boys than girls and knows no racial, ethnic, or social boundaries. Family income, lifestyle, and educational levels do not affect the chance of autism's occurrence.
Autism impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Children and adults with autism typically have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities. The disorder makes it hard for them to communicate with others and relate to the outside world. In some cases, aggressive and/or self-injurious behavior may be present. Persons with autism may exhibit repeated body movements (hand flapping, rocking), unusual responses to people or attachments to objects and resistance to changes in routines. Individuals may also experience sensitivities in the five senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste.
Facts about Autism:
- Autism is the fastest growing disability in America.
- Autism occurs in as many as 1 in 88 individuals.
- Autism affects individuals in every country and region of the world and knows no racial, ethnic or economic boundaries.
- Autism usually occurs during the first three years of life It is the second most common developmental disability It impairs social interaction, expressive and receptive communication and imagination.
- Symptoms can range from mild to severe.
- Autism is five times more common in boys than girls.
Autism in America, By Dr. Mark H. Yeager
As the diagnosis has become more recognized and the issues are more out in the public eye, awareness of heightened emotions arise at the very mention of the word. In parents, it evokes fear, anger and grief. In service providers, it wells up feelings of confusion, frustration and inadequacy. The plain truth is that all are natural and appropriate feelings.
What is autism? We now know much more about autism than we did just five years ago. We still do not know what causes autism. Autism is a neurological disorder that disrupts a person's learning and socialization. Deriving its name from the Greek word for "self", autism is often associated with people who seem self-absorbed and exhibit unusual behaviors. It is a spectrum disorder (ASD), meaning that any two people diagnosed with autism may have very different symptoms and/or characteristics. Persons with the disorder are represented across the severity range of impairment. There is no known cause or cure for autism. However, much is being done in the field to potentially shed more light on the causes and treatments.
Autism is behaviorally diagnosed and requires the attention of trained specialists in the field to accurately diagnose and effectively treat the symptoms. Persons diagnosed with autism require a great deal of understanding and assistance in coping with their environment and relationships. To ensure optimal outcomes for the person diagnosed with autism, accurate diagnosis and early intervention are imperative.
How does autism affect a person's life? 1) It causes impairments in one's ability to be effective in social interactions, especially in making friends and understanding social cues and rules. 2) It causes impairments in one's ability to communicate. Special challenges are apparent in the area of understanding spoken language or reading "nonverbal" communications. This is very difficult for the person with autism. Studies show that 24 to 40% of children with autism remain mute throughout their lives. 3) A person with autism will demonstrate restrictive, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities. Unusual preoccupations, odd or repetitive motor movements, restricted patterns, adherence to sameness or routine or interest that are abnormal in either intensity or focus are not uncommon.
How can the individual with autism be helped? Through accurate and appropriate training of all persons involved as a primary or secondary caregiver. This may include parents, teachers, teaching assistants, speech/language pathologists, physicians and anyone else that touches the life of a person diagnosed with autism. Also effective and consistent behavior management still proves to be the best method of programming and treatment for individuals affected by autism. The need for effective and creative design of programs to meet the specific needs of each individual is imperative. Like no other types of programs, these programs must address the specific issues caused by autism in a non-traditional manner. The buy-in of all persons involved to provide consistent directions and interventions is a must. The success of a person diagnosed with autism lies in the design of their program and the training of all participating in the implementation of the program.
How prevalent is autism and why do we hear so much more about autism now than we did even five years ago? That is a complex question. There is no doubt there is a growing need for services as well as a focus on service direction for Mississippians diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. The most recent statistics on prevalence of autism indicate that potentially 1.5 million Americans are challenged by this developmental disability. It is presently the second most common developmental disability in the world, second only to intellectual disabilities. Sixty-five percent (65%) of these cases are under 16 years of age and is four times more common in boys than girls. At its present rate of increase it will be, by a significant margin, the most common developmental disability in the world by the year 2015. It is difficult to determine how many children in the State of Mississippi is effected by an autism spectrum disorder. Using CDC numbers as a guideline, Mississippi should have around 3,000 school aged children eligible for a ruling of an autism spectrum disorder. With this number in mind, it is clear that the need for services is insurmountable. These services include diagnostics and evaluations, medical services, speech-language services, occupational therapy and behavioral intervention services just to name a few. These needs are placing an incredible strain on the present support infrastructure that is not prepared to handle this influx of required services. These numbers and service demands do not include the numbers of adults with autism. The potential for services needed to meet the needs of this faction of this growing population is also massive. This data clearly supports an urgent need for a more extensive support network in Mississippi. TEAAM is that network.