April is Autism Awareness Month. It’s essential that all parents are educated on what autism is, its symptoms, diagnoses, and potential causes. Sadly, autism is ten times more common today than it was only 20 years ago. Autism statistics are staggering, and more children are being diagnosed each day. According to Autism Speaks, 1 in 110 children have autism.
Here are five facts about autism that every parent should know:
1. Autism is Not a Specific Disease.
When we hear the phrase “autism,” sometimes it’s easy to assume that it’s one single disease or entity. Autism is actually a collection of developmental brain disorders known as pervasive developmental disorders (PDD). Most parents refer to this as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs).
There are three types of ASDs: autistic disorder (or “classic” autism), Asperger syndrome (which has milder symptoms than classic autism), and pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified or “atypical autism.”)
2. Autism has a Genetic Component
In the past, researchers mistakenly believed that autism was caused by improper parenting. Although what causes autism is still heavily researched, scientists do know that there is a genetic component to autism.
For example, autistic brains are different than the brains of a normal person. In addition, if a couple has an autistic child, they have a 5 to 10 percent chance of having another child with an autistic disorder. When there are identical twins, there is a 60 percent likelihood of autism in the other twin.
Researchers believe that autism may be the result of multiple genes interacting with each other. This might explain why the severity of autism differs so much. A child can have mild autism or severe autism.
3. Babies Can Have Signs of Autism
Children are being diagnosed with autism sooner and sooner. The average age of diagnosis used to be three and a half, but this is changing. Autism specialists are becoming better are identify telltale signs of autism in babies earlier. These signs include a lack of babbling and no pointing. A majority of children with autism will display signs of developmental disruption before they turn age one.
For example, if your baby loves babbling at six months, but then he or she suddenly stops babbling completely by 11 months old, this may be a telltale sign of autism in babies.
If your baby isn’t talking by 18 months old, this indicates a problem and you should talk to your pediatrician by developmental screening. The sooner that your child gets help, the better he or she will do in the future. Early intervention is key.
Early signs of autism in babies include not babbling or sitting independently after six months old, and not making eye contact or smiling by age one.
4. Autism Does Not Discriminate
Autism spectrum disorders affects all races, and children of all socioeconomic groups. Autism is a universal phenomenon; it’s not just a disorder that affects the United States. Interestingly, autism affects more boys than girls. According to CDC statistics, 1 in 80 boys has autism but only 1 in 240 girls has the disorder. The average is still 1 in 110 children will have autism.
More and more children are becoming diagnosed with autism. This reason for this increase isn’t known. The increase is possibly due to the definition of autism becoming broader (not just classic autism anymore). It’s also possible that more doctors are aware of autism than in the past. The CDC believes that the increase in ASD diagnosis is a combination of multiple factors.
5. Autism is Treatable
If your child is diagnosed with autism, there’s hope. While there isn’t a cure for the spectrum yet, early intervention can ensure that your children have a bright future. Children with autism do have the potential to go to college, have careers and get married. Remember that autism is a spectrum, and it ranges from mild to severe.
Learn more about Autism at the CDC’s Website: Autism Facts.