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