Autism Awareness

Word cloud Autism Awareness related

By Michelle Scheu

May is National Mental Health Awareness month. This gives us an opportunity to look at some of the trending issues facing families and consequently, the mental health treatment community.

Autism is a serious developmental disorder that impairs the ability to communicate and interact. Mental health specialists are finally acknowledging through the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM 5) what families have known for a long time — the label of “autism” doesn’t really describe the continuum of impairments that people can experience. Acknowledging this can bring more effective treatment as well as hope to individuals and families facing a diagnosis of autism. One only has to look at the life of Temple Grandin, PhD to understand that people with autism are capable of great things, just like everyone else, with the proper support and intervention.

Here are some facts about autism:

  • Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a complex set of neurological disorders that severely impair social, communicative and cognitive functions.
  • In 2014, approximately 1 in 68 children (1 in 42 boys, and 1 in 189 girls) were diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder in the United States.
  • It is possible to detect signs of autism in infants as young as 6-18 months. For example, if a baby fixates on objects or does not respond to people, he or she may be exhibiting early signs of an autism spectrum disorder.
  • Older babies and toddlers may fail to respond to their names, avoid eye contact, lack joint attention or engage in repetitive movements such as rocking or arm flapping. They may play with toys in unusual ways.
  • Parents who notice these signs or are concerned their child is not meeting developmental milestones, should contact their pediatrician and request a developmental screening.
  • Scientists agree that the earlier a child receives early intervention services the better the child’s prognosis. All children with autism can benefit from early intervention.
  • The most effective treatments available today are applied behavioral analysis and occupational, speech and physical therapy. Families may benefit from psychotherapy to assist them in supporting the family member with autism.
  • There is no cure for autism, and most individuals with ASD will need some level of support and services throughout their lifetime.

Help is available. If you want more information regarding autism and autism spectrum disorders, here are a few places to start. These sites not only have the latest information, but can also help you find a qualified provider in your area.


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