As a mother, I will never give up on my child. As a mother of a child who has autism, I will never give up hope.
I look into his eyes and I see all the potential that he has to offer to this beautiful world and I just know that one day the world can see what I see.

Follow my blog as I share my life and my experiences as a person who loves someone with autism.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

#Autism 101: What We Know Today

Autism 101: What We Know Today
Image compliments of Guide to Nursing Degrees


Autism 101: What We Know Today

Despite growing awareness and advances in treatment, this fast-growing developmental disorder has enormous personal, family, and economic impact - and no known cure.

  • 1 in 50 children have an autism spectrum disorder
  • At 10-17% annual growth in cases, it’s the fastest-growing developmental disability
  • Effects 1 to 1.5 million Americans
  • Symptoms appear by age 3
  • 5x more prevalent in males
  • $60 billion in annual costs, $3.2 million over an individual's lifespan
  • No known cure, but early treatment can help
  • Surge in cases may be due to better diagnosis, wider awareness, and broader definitions

Autism Spectrum

  • Autistic disorder - impairments of social interaction, communication and play, and restricted or repetitive interests and activities
  • Asperger’s disorder - social interaction impairments and repetitive behavior, but usually without significant language delay
  • Atypical autism - core autistic behaviors are present, but the criteria for autistic disorder are not fully met

Signs of Autism

  • Impaired social interaction and communication
  • Restricted and repetitive behavior, such as stacking or lining up objects
  • Symptoms of autistic disorder children age 1-3
  • no babbling or pointing by age 1
  • no single words by 16 months or two-word phrases by age 2
  • no response to name
  • loss of language or social skills
  • poor eye contact
  • excessive lining up of toys or objects
  • no smiling or social responsiveness

Autism and Adulthood

  • Increasingly, parents are seeking help as their child transitions to late teenage and adult years
  • Challenges include education, living arrangements, supervised day care, and more
  • Young adults may qualify academically for college, but can’t cope with other aspects of college life
  • “Adults face discrimination that comes from a lack of understanding about autism. The tolerance that is extended to children with autism is often lacking.” - Pamela Dixon Thomas, PhD, LP, psychologist with the University of Michigan Autism and Communication Disorders Center (UMACC)

Science of Autism

  • Neurodevelopmental disorder
  • Strong basis in genetic mutation
  • Evidence for environmental causes such as vaccines, foods, and heavy metals is anecdotal, but extensive studies are underway

Autism and the Family

  • Marital stress: 80% divorce rate in families with children who have autism
  • Lack of rest due to difficulty in finding child care
  • Challenges involving diagnosis, services, adolescence, and post high school
  • Siblings may develop a greater sense of responsibility, or may feel resentment at the extra attention the child with autism receives “Having a child with Autism can mess with your head: You feel like you can move mountains for them yet you’re powerless at the same time.” - Stuart Duncan Treatment
  • Educational/behavioral interventions targeting social and language skills and family counseling for parents and siblings of children with autism
  • Medications including those to treat anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive behavior; in severe cases, antipsychotic medications

Controversial treatments

  • Chelation - attempts to eliminate metals such as mercury from the body (a potentially hazardous medical procedure)
  • DAN! (Defeat Autism Now) - includes nutritional supplements, gluten-free diet, treatment for allergies and intestinal bacterial/yeast overgrowth “When living with a neurological condition (or with a loved one who has one), it can be very easy to focus on the challenges and limitations. But in my life, I have found that focusing on abilities, finding new ways to adapt, have been crucial to my successes in life. Seeking those solutions can even be seen as a form of creativity.” - Lynne Soraya (nom de plume for a writer with Asperger’s Syndrome)

Significant Findings from Recent Studies

  • High-quality early intervention for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can do more than improve behaviors, it can improve brain function.
  • Being nonverbal at age 4 does not mean children with autism will never speak. According to research, most will, in fact, learn to use words, with half learning to speak fluently.
  • Though autism tends to be life long, some children with ASD make so much progress that they no longer meet the diagnostic criteria for autism. High quality early-intervention may be key.


  • 1943 - Dr. Leo Kanner publishes a paper about a condition he calls “early infantile autism”
  • 1966 - A British Study estimates the rate of autism in at .04%
  • 1967 - Psychologist Bruno Bettelheim promotes a theory that “refrigerator mothers” cause autism
  • 1977 - Studies of twins reveal autism as a largely genetic disorder
  • 1980 - “Infantile autism” listed as a distinct disorder in the DSM
  • 1987 - Psychologist Ivar Lovaas publishes a study showing positive effects of intensive therapy
  • 1988 - “Rain Main,” starring Dustin Hoffman as an autistic savant
  • 1991 - At federal prompting, schools begin identifying and serving autistic students
  • 1994 – Asperger’s disorder is recognized, expanding the autism spectrum to include milder cases
  • 1997 - National Institutes of Health Autism Coordinating Committee launches
  • 1998 - A Lancet study suggests that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine causes autism (later debunked)
  • 1999 - California reports 12,000 autism cases, an increase of more than 200% in a decade
  • 2005 - Autism Speaks founded - now the world’s largest autism advocacy group
  • 2007 - Autism Centers for Excellence launches, coordinated by the NIH/ACC
  • 2009 - The CDC estimates that 1 in 110 children have autism spectrum disorders, up from 1 in 150 in 2007


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