The Beacon Bolt is a publication of the student body of Northwest Christian University. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) contains a group of complex disorders that affect brain development. The disorder is characterized by difficulty with verbal and nonverbal communication, social interaction, and repetitive behaviors. In May of 2013 DSM-5 diagnostic manual was published which changed the way we discuss autism. Before the publication medical professionals recognized several different types of autism, including autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder, Asperger syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder, but now people are just diagnosed simply with ASD.
Intellectual disabilities often become associated with disabilities, along with difficulties with motor coordination, attention, sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. With this said the disorder continues to surprise doctors because every case is so different than the last. Although as previously mentioned some people develop intellectual disabilities, while others excel in certain in areas including visual skills, math, music and art. It is estimated that 40% of the population with autism is average-above average intellectually, while 25% are nonverbal.
Symptoms of autism start to emerge between the ages of 2-3. Autism Speaks is an organization that funds research to find effective methods for earlier diagnosis. Getting an early diagnosis can be difficult, but with an early diagnosis an early intervention plan can be implemented and behavioral therapies can improve outcomes. The most valuable key to an early diagnosis is autism awareness, with basic knowledge and understanding of the condition we can help children get the help they need at an early age.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say about 1 in 68 American children are on the autism spectrum, a steady ten-fold increase in the last forty years. This increases in diagnoses is only partly explained by the spread and increase of awareness of the autism spectrum disorder. It is estimated that 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls are diagnosed with ASD in the United States, affecting about 3 million people in the US and tens of millions worldwide.
The cause of autism not long ago was as much a mystery to a medical professional as it was to an everyday regular person, but in recent years research has improved. Small consistencies have been found, but the main thing to remember is that there is no one cause of autism. Scientists in the past five years, Autism Speaks says that they have, “…identified a number of rare gene changes, or mutations, associated with autism. A small number of these are sufficient to cause autism by themselves. Most cases of autism, however, appear to be caused by a combination of autism risk genes and environmental factors influencing early brain development.” Yet even with the recent research the National Autism Association states, “Autism is the fastest growing developmental disorder, yet most underfunded.”
Autism continues to puzzle medical professionals all over the world, but with an increase of awareness and support of those patients and families involved, research and funding can be increased. ASD has a special place in my heart because my fourteen year old baby brother was diagnosed with Asperger’s when he was five years old, which has come with so many trials and blessings. Individuals and their families need encouragement and support, so it’s important that others take the time to learn, understand and share information about autism.
April is Autism Awareness month and April 2, 2016 is the eighteenth annual World Autism Awareness Day, join me in supporting the global support of autism by wearing blue this Saturday. Take the challenge with your friends, family and co-workers, please take pictures and post them to social media using #LIUB (Light It Up Blue). It’s an easy task for us Beacons to do, so take thirty seconds of your time this weekend and choose to wear blue!
If you are looking for more ways to get involved and support the autism community you can also check out http://www.firstgiving.com/asoautismwalk to learn about Oregon walk’s and run’s, where proceeds go to families in Oregon and SW Washington, helping individuals and families affected by autism.
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