Autism Awareness

April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day.  In fact, the month of April is nationally recognized as Autism Awareness Month and has been since the 1970’s.

Autism is a complex developmental disability.  It affects individuals differently and to varying degrees.  Currently, there is no known cause of autism.  Recent studies by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) show the prevalence of autism is increasing.  Now, 1 in every 88 children is diagnosed with autism.  There is a higher incidence of boys diagnosed more so than girls, with a number of 1 in every 54 boys.

Children are typically diagnosed with autism between the ages of 18 months and 6 years of age.  While there is no “cure” for autism, early diagnosis and intervention can lead to significantly improved outcomes.  According to the Autism Society, some signs and symptoms of autism include:

  • Lack of or delay in spoken language
  • Repetitive language and/or motor movements (hand flapping, rocking, twirling, etc)
  • Little or no eye contact
  • Lack of interest in peers
  • Lack of spontaneous play or make-believe
  • Persistent fixation on parts of objects

If you have concerns about your child’s development, please speak with your pediatrician immediately.  Ask your pediatrician to screen your child for autism. There are validated screening tools for autism as early as 16 months of age, but the best scenario would be to have a developmental screening completed at each well visit check-up to ensure your child is continuing to meet their developmental milestones.  If any “red flags” are noted, further evaluation should be considered.  If you suspect your child may have delays in his or her development, contact your local Early Intervention program.  In Tennessee, the program is TEIS (Tennessee Early Intervention System).

Throughout the month of April, our blog will focus on autism.  There are many things you can do to help those with autism and their families:

Be Supportive:  There are many events going on around the world to support autism awareness. Fundraising walks, such as the Opening Eyes to Autism 5k, are raising money for programs to support those with autism and for further funding of research.  Panera Bread has partnered with Autism Speaks.  In the Mid-South, a portion of all sales of their Wildberry Smoothies, Blueberry Bagels and Autism Awareness Bracelets will go directly to Autism Speaks – Memphis. Other events like the Light It Up Blue campaign are helping raise awareness.  In Memphis, Graceland is one of the many famous landmarks going blue for autism awareness.

Be Understanding:  Families with children with autism do want to be included in activities.  Invite them to a family BBQ, church or your child’s birthday party.  However, be understanding if they have to make special accommodations for their child.

Be Active:  Many insurance companies do not cover therapy services for children with autism.  Support legislation to increase medical coverage for those with autism.  Sign a petition to prevent delays in diagnosing autism.  Support local organizations providing services for those with autism and their families.  In Memphis, these organizations include:

Autism Society of the Mid-South

Autism Speaks Memphis

Transformations Autism Treatment Center

The ABA Place

The Exceptional Foundation of West Tennesee

Harwood Development Center

Autism is not limited to the United States.  Children around the world are diagnosed with autism every day.  Recent studies show that more children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes or pediatric AIDS combined. Show your support for those with autism.  By doing so, you will help open the doors for further research, legislation and services for children and their families.


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