Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Growing Epidemic

It wasn't so long ago that the word Autism was rarely heard because it only affected one in thousands of children born in the USA. Today, that number has grown to 1 in 150. Boys are four times more likely to have the disorder than girls, although the reason is not clear. Lots of research has been done to determine HOW Autism affects the brain, but opinions on WHY are still varied.

My Grandson, Spencer, who is now six was diagnosed as having 'autistic tendencies' when he was between one and two years old. Autism is a 'spectrum disorder' because it encompasses several developmental problems: Asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, AKA PDD-NOS. As you can see, anytime there isn't a documented cause for something, it's addressed as a disorder or syndrome.

Although most autistic children cannot connect socially with others, Spencer can. He's a very loving child, but has experienced delays in most of the major milestones in his life. His autistic tendencies are most apparent in his arm flapping and stimming (repetitious humming). The degrees of this disability vary greatly in individuals. Some children cannot stand loud noises, touching, or changes in their routines. To say parents are challenged is an understatement.

There is no cure for Autism, but individualized attention can help children overcome some of the difficulties they face. While some children diagnosed with a "high-functioning" degree of autism may grow to live independent lives, most will always need some sort of assistance.

Many books have been written on the topic. Some suggest that dietary changes or daily immersion in Epsom Salt baths may help, while others advocate forgoing childhood inoculations as a preventative. Desperate parents are grappling for answers, but none are yet conclusive as to the cause.

The purpose of my blog today is to help heighten awareness about the alarming number of children who are affected with Autism. Even if it prevents one person from doing or saying something unkind about a child they consider strange, I've made some progress. It wasn't so long ago that I felt embarrassed when someone asked Spencer his name or age and he couldn't answer. It was a foolish reaction because he had no choice in the matter, but how do you explain that to a stranger...especially in front of the child? His cognitive skills are normal--he hears and understands fine, but words remained trapped somewhere in the tangle of Autism.

We're very blessed that he's made wonderful progress and can finally speak to us without the apparent frustration we once saw in his eyes. They say it takes a village to raise a child... Well, I believe it takes an entire community to help heighten awareness and understanding about Autism. Won't you please do your part. If you plan to donate money to a charity this year...even though I know the economy sucks...won't you please consider donating to help find the reasons behind this debilitating disorder? For those who can't say thank you, I'll say it for them.

For more information, please visit The Autism Epidemic


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this very personal & important information with us. I enjoyed reading about Spencer & autism.
Happy New Year,
J. Aday Kennedy
The Differently-Abled Writer

LuAnn said...

Hi, Ginger. Do you feel there are more cases of autism now or are doctors perhaps more aware of the varying stages of this condition? I know when I took psych in college, we only learned about the extreme symptoms. No one talked about the milder forms.

Unknown said...

J, Thank you for visiting and reading. I appreciate your time and comments.

LuAnn, Part of the rise in Autistic stats could be due to the huge spectrum of symptoms, but I truly believe there has been a dramatic spike in those diagnosed. I can't remember ever meeting so many parents of children who have the disorder, and I've been a parent for over 40 years, a grandparent for several, too. Autism aside, There has to be something going on with the additives we put into our foods...I can't believe how quickly young girls are maturing...but that's a blog for another day. Thanks for the stimulating question. :)

LuAnn said...

I, too, know of several children who are autistic -- in one stage or another. For some, you would never know unless you were in continuous contact with them. Others are so obvious as to not be able to mistake their actions for anything other than autism.
Here where I live, we have an 80% Hispanic population. One of the very common childhood "disorders" for them is Down's Syndrome. It's absolutely amazing how many children you can see here with it. In fact, if you go shopping or out for dinner and not see a Down's child, it's a rarity.

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