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April is National Autism Awareness Month and all over the country, events are being planned to educate the public about this complicated disorder. According to the Autism Society, it is becoming increasingly common, occurring in an estimated 1 in 68 births in the United States and in about one percent of the world’s population.

What exactly is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that affects communication and social interaction, among other things. Autism occurs on a spectrum, which means that it affects individuals in a variety of ways and to differing degrees. There is no known single cause, nor is there any single test to detect it. Doctors consider all the symptoms that are consistent with autism and make a diagnosis based on the number and severity of the symptoms.

What are some of the signs?

Few children with ASD have all of the symptoms, and the severity will vary widely, but here are a few of the more common signs of autism:

  • A delay in speech
  • Odd inflections or a flat tone
  • Repetition of sounds, words or movements – This is the stereotypical rocking, spinning and flapping associated with autism.
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Disinterest in socializing with peers – A child who is on the spectrum may play alone, even when surrounded by other children.
  • Intense and narrow interests
  • Poor motor skills
  • Sensory sensitivities
  • Lack of flexibility when plans are changed or routines are disrupted.
  • Lack of empathy

It is important to note that autism is a complicated disorder and many other conditions share some of the same symptoms. Sensory processing disorder also causes extreme sensitivity to sounds or smells. Socially anxious children might avoid eye contact or interaction with other kids. Gifted children often show more intense interest in subjects than their peers. Only a doctor trained to review the entire picture is qualified to make the diagnosis.

Can ASD be prevented or treated?

There is no way to prevent autism that we know of at this time. It is also important to note that there is no evidence that vaccines are involved in any way. We can’t cure autism and children do not outgrow it. Early diagnosis and intervention, however, can make a huge difference in how it manifests. Depending on how a child is affected, there are many ways to work with the symptoms, making them more manageable. There has also been some success in teaching certain behaviors and skills such as empathy and social interaction.

In celebration of National Autism Awareness Month, you can help by promoting awareness, acceptance, and bring attention to the many who face a diagnosis each year. To learn more about ASD and how you can get involved, visit the Autism Society website. If you have any questions or concerns about your child, please contact us. Remember, early detection is key.