Autism: What You Need to Know
Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder don’t think, behave, communicate or interact like neurotypical kids. More than half are as smart or smarter than their peers, but some may struggle with social skills or behavior all their lives.
Read on for what you need to know about ASD. And here’s what you need to remember: Like their peers, kids with ASD are growing and learning, and they have unknown potential.
Who Should Be Screened?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all children be screened at least twice before the age of 24 months. Research has shown children with autism do better with early diagnosis and therapy.
Autism Red Flags:
Children with autism can make great gains throughout life. Know the following “red flags” by age:
- By 6 months: Few or no big smiles or engaging expressions Limited or no eye contact
- By 9 months: Little or no back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions.
- By 12 months: Little or no babbling, back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving n Little or no response to name
- By 16 months: Very few or no words
- By 24 months: Very few or no meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating
Symptoms of Autism:
A child with ASD might have these symptoms, though a typical child also could display some of these symptoms:
- Doesn’t respond to their name by 12 months of age
- Doesn’t point at objects to show interest (point at an airplane flying over) by 14 months
- Doesn’t play “pretend” games (pretend to “feed” a doll) by 18 months
- Avoids eye contact and wants to be alone
- Has trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about his own feelings
- Has delayed speech and language skills
- Repeats words or phrases over and over
- Gives unrelated answers to questions
- Gets upset by minor changes
- Has obsessive interests n Flaps his hands or arms, rocks his body, or spins in circles
- Has unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look or feel
Autism by the Numbers:
- 600 Percent: The increase in the prevalence of autism in the last 20 years. In 1975, an estimated 1 in 1,500 had autism. In 2014 an estimated 1 in 59 had ASD.
- Four: Number of times boys are more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls.
- 2-18: The percent chance that parents who have a child with ASD have of having a second child who is also affected.
- 1 in 59: Number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder according to the CDC (2018).
- 44: The percentage of children with autism who have IQ scores in the average to above average range.
- One third: of people with autism are nonverbal.
- $60,000: The amount, on average, autism costs parents or caregivers a year until their children are through childhood.
Tips for Family Friends:
To get to know a child with autism, adults and kids could try some of these strategies:
- Keep conversations focused and simple. They are literal thinkers – they will go to the window to see cats and dogs if you say It’s “raining cats and dogs.”
- Talk about what the kid wants to talk about. Some might be obsessed with certain subjects, like superheroes or trains.
- Be patient. Kids with ASD often take longer to process information.
- Stay positive. They respond to positive reinforcement; ignore acting-out behavior.
- Play with the child or encourage your kids to play. Sometimes they communicate better and feel calmer when they’re moving or focused on a toy.
- Be affectionate. Kids may not be able to express appreciation, but most of them love hugs.
- Believe in them. Kids with autism are growing children with an unknown potential; don’t define the kid by the diagnosis.
Atlanta’s Nationally-Recognized Center for Autism
Marcus Autism Center, one of the largest autism centers in the United States, has been serving children and adolescents with autism and related disorders since 1991. It is one of only five National Institute of Health (NIH) Autism Centers of Excellence (ACE). The ACE designation supports research to identify causes and best treatments of autism. In conjunction with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the center treats more than 5,500 children each year, and offers services such as assessment and diagnosis, medical services, severe behavior therapy and a language and learning program.
Children will be assessed and diagnosed at the center in two groups: Ages 2 and younger will be tested using the oneday toddler evaluation and ages 3 and older will have a two-day appointment. These involve developmental testing, assessment of social interaction, communication and other objectives. Parents will receive a full report of the findings so they can choose the next step for treatment.
Research is an important part of what Marcus Autism Center does, and it seeks participants for its ongoing studies. The center is now enrolling participants in several studies for expectant mothers and newborns, toddlers and school-age children.
For More Information:
Families of children with autism don’t have to go it alone. Support groups such as Autism Speaks Georgia Chapter and Spectrum provide information, support and organize events for families. Lekotek of Georgia serves families of all disabled children, including many with autism, with a goal of playing and learning together and providing support .The walk and fundraiser for Autism Speaks is each April, make sure to check their calendar for the yearly date.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Marcus Autism Center, National Autism Association, Autism Speaks, University of Rochester Medical Center.