April is Autism Awareness month. Every year, Autism Speaks, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people with autism spectrum disorder, kicks off World Autism Month beginning on April 2 with the United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day. Thousands of iconic landmarks and buildings are lit in blue light as they join the hundreds of thousands of homes and communities around the world in support of people living with autism. Autism-friendly events and educational activities take place all month to increase understanding and acceptance of people with autism and foster worldwide support.
Here are some facts to help you increase your understanding and acceptance of autism:
Autism affects more than 70 million people worldwide.
Autism affects an estimated 1 in 59 in children in the U.S.
Autism can be reliably diagnosed around age 2, but the average age remains 4.
Autism is a lifelong condition for most people.
One of the most important things you can do as a parent or caregiver is to learn the early signs of autism and become familiar with the typical developmental milestones that your child should be reaching.
What Are the Signs of Autism?
The timing and intensity of autism’s early signs vary widely. Some infants show characteristics in their first months. In others, behaviors may emerge as late as age 2 or 3.
Not all children with autism show all the signs. Many children who don’t have autism show a few. That’s why professional evaluation is crucial.
The following may indicate your child is at risk for an autism spectrum disorder. If your child exhibits any of the following, ask your pediatrician or family doctor for an evaluation right away:
By six months:
Few or no big smiles or other warm, joyful and engaging expressions
Limited or no eye contact
By nine months:
Little or no back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions
By 12 months
Little or no babbling
Little or no back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving
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)
At any age
Loss of previously acquired speech, babbling or social skills
Avoidance of eye contact
Persistent preference for solitude
Difficulty understanding other people’s feelings
Delayed language development
Persistent repetition of words or phrases (echolalia)
Resistance to minor changes in routine or surroundings
Repetitive behaviors (flapping, rocking, spinning, etc.)
Unusual and intense reactions to sounds, smells, tastes, textures, lights and/or colors
Screening If You Have Concerns
The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (also know as M-CHAT) can help you decide if a professional should evaluate your child. This simple online autism screen takes only a few minutes. If the answers suggest your child has a high probability for autism, it a good idea to share this with your child’s pediatrician. Anytime you have concerns about your child's development, don't wait and speak to your pediatrician about referral for other services or evaluations.
Resources for Families and Children
A diagnosis of autism is an important turning point in a long journey to understand your child's world. Autism Speaks has many resources for families whose children have recently received a diagnosis.
Resources for Adults and Teens
Do you suspect that you may have autism? Many people who have milder forms of autism go undiagnosed until adulthood. Find out more in the guide "Is it Autism and If So, What Next?"
Have more questions? Autism Speaks' Autism Response Team can help you with information, resources and opportunities. To reach them call 888-288-4762 (en Español 888-772-9050) or email email@example.com.
Get Involved in the Community
There are many local autism and Aspergers events and programs in Massachusetts for families, children, and adults. For a complete list by date visit www.spedchildmass.com/disability-autism-aspergers-events-programs-massachusetts/.
This blog post was brought to you by Emerson Hospital’s pediatric rehab team and written by Marahu Falcon George, MA, CCC-SLP. Marahu is a member of the pediatric rehab team at Emerson Hospital’s Clough Family Center for Rehabilitative and Sports Therapies and works with infants in the special care nursery at Emerson Hospital.
Have questions for Marahu or want to connect with a speech-language pathologist or other specialist from the pediatric team at Emerson’s Clough Family Center for Rehabilitative and Sports Therapies? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 978-287-8200, or visit www.emersonhospital.org/rehab.